Tag Archives: Hudson Valley

The Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie

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The outside view of 316 Main Street.

The 300th block of Main St., Poughkeepsie is the last place one would expect to find an organic garden. However, located in an office building (formerly the Kresige building), that’s just what you’ll find behind an unassuming door (I actually walked into two storage closets and Mr. Crum’s office before I found the door to the gardens). Since last August, the owner of the building, Brud Hodgkins, and resident farmer, Earl Crum, have been knocking down office walls and building 17 planting tables, a germination room, and a seeding room. The construction process is very much still underway: walls were coming down as I was touring the facility. “There are over a million square feet of unused office space in the City of Poughkeepsie,” my tour guide, Rocky, explained. The Indoor Organic Gardens seek to solve three issues:

1. Reuse of office space in the City of Poughkeepsie

2. Employment of Poughkeepsie youth, veterans, and previously-incarcerated individuals

3. Provision of nutritious food to Poughkeepsie public schools and nursing homes

Today, they focus on growing micro greens, which are the beginnings of cabbages. Mr.

The germination room, kept at 85 degrees.

Hodgkins emphasized the importance of micro greens both in terms of sustainability and making nutritious food available.” Their efficient, nearly waterless process (only two cups of water for each crop) can produce hundreds of pounds of food per week. Rocky showed me how seeds are packed into manure in the seeding room and covered in a sort of paper towel rather than watered directly. The micro greens retain much of the nutrients that are normally lost by water-heavy processes used in commercial farming and other urban gardens. Then, a small amount of water is added and they are placed in a plastic container in the germination room, which is kept at 85 degrees. There, micro greens germinate in just 3 days. They are then placed on a table with LED lights, growing in a beautiful array.

A table of crops, of which there are 17. By the end of construction, there will be 60!

“We’re not growing vegetables, we’re growing nutritional units,” the insurance agent-turned-gardener explained, “We’re a nutritional unit factory.” Indeed, micro greens provide more nutrition and vitamins than mature cabbage leaves—their brochure says that “10 oz. of Red Cabbage at the micro green stage contains the same nutrition as 40 oz. of mature cabbage—and they a produced at an unusually fast rate. The Gardens are a for-profit entity, selling to Adam’s, Mother Earth, and other similar vendors in Dutchess County. Hodgkins explained that these profits enable them to then donate micro greens to the local schools and nursing homes to fulfill their mission of improving access to nutritious food to Poughkeepsie residents.

More micro greens!
More micro greens!

Most interesting to me was Hodgkins’ focus on hiring employees with criminal records, who had dropped out of high school, or had other limitations that employers would usually discriminate against. After experiencing a family member’s difficulties to reenter the job market after battling a drug addiction, he has made giving others a second chance a priority. Employees are trained by master farmer Earl Crum, who also owns a farm in Millbrook, and are equipped with the critical skills that Hodkins believes are the future of food in urban areas. With social and environmental sustainability at its core, the Indoor Organic Gardens are poised to expand into three more abandoned office locations in Middle Main this year. If you’d like to taste some of the Organic Gardens’ greens, try Twisted Soul’s Naughty Noodles!

Sophia Burns ’18

Sophia and Moo Friend

Hi! My name is Sophia Burns and I am a sophomore Urban Studies major from South Jersey (aka the breadbasket of the Garden State). I love the outdoors and have been getting more interested in the Hudson Valley through my field work, so I’m really looking forward to all that we’ll be doing in this course!

Here I am with my “moo” friend. Many cow kisses accepted on this day.


Union Square Greenmarket

Last week, I boarded the green line of the Metro North Railroad and embarked on a scenic train ride down the Hudson River to 14th street and 5th avenue.   After emerging from the subway stop in the middle of Union Square park, I was greeted by many rows of colorful tents and farm stands occupied by equally colorful proprietors.Union Square Greenmarket

I initially took one cursory stroll down the main thoroughfare in order to waft the sweet smells of crisp produce and observe the diversity of local merchandise.  The products varied from morning-baked muffins, specially-cured meats, home-made iced teas, and even freshly-potted plants! However, the main focus is obviously locally-grown fruits and vegetables.  I conducted some secondary research on the Grown NYC website and learned that after its founding in 1976, the Greenmarket now boasts 140 regional farmers, fisherman and bakers and approximately 60,000 regular attendees.  While the patrons are mostly local Manhattan and Brooklyn residents, some vendors travel from as far as Burlington, Vermont in order to participate in the exchange.

One such vendor was Chris Wheat from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm, whose agrarian surname pre-destined his tenure at the Greenmarket.  Mr. Wheat told me that the 200-acre, cage-free operation, originally a chicken farm based out of Allenville, Pennsylvania, is now located in Ferndale, New York, and they’ve been doing business for close to 20 years.  They specialize in Moulard ducks, but they also raise a special heritage breed called Lola.  Not surprisingly, their main commodities are various duck meats (breasts, legs, sausage, bacon, salami, prosciutto), but they also export value-added products like rendered duck fat and foie gras.

I also spoke with Lou from Roaming Acres Farm in Montclair, New Jersey, whose idiosyncratic focus is ostrich meat.  Although this exact business was founded in 2005, its primary owner Todd, has been in the meat industry for 15 years.  Like Mr. Wheat’s duck farm, their feed is notably 100% vegetarian, and their output varies from standard cuts of ostrich meat to eggs, leather, oil and even soap! Lou particularly sold me on his ostrich jerky, asserting that it was both higher in iron than beef and lower in fat than chicken without its skin.  I tried a little of this red meat poultry for myself, and it was indeed very delicious.

These two merchants numbered among dozens of different farmers and artisans that constitute Wednesday’s market.  However, on other days of operation, there is an entirely different cast of characters offering their unique, local merchandise, so I would encourage all enthusiasts of local agriculture to hop on a train to the city and check it out!

conversation with Jessica Applestone and Don Lewis

Two advocates for building local food systems talked to our class: Jessica Applestone (co-founder of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats) and Don Lewis (baker/miller at Wild Hive Farm).

Some references in this conversation:
01:42 how Jessica Applestone and her husband Joshua started Fleisher’s
02:12 the state of the Hudson Valley’s food system 10 years ago
03:53 most chefs and butchers don’t know how to cut meat
04:45 the value of marketing and publicity in managing farm business
05:36 Tom Schneller of Culinary Institute of America and Schneller’s Meats (Kingston, NY)
05:48 Fleisher’s butcher school and apprentice system
07:28 influence of Michael Pollan’s “Power Steer” (2002)
08:29 why Fleisher’s located in Kingston, NY
10:15 why Fleisher’s got out of wholesale sales to restaurants
11:42 Flying Pig Farm (Shusah, NY)
12:00 influence of Union Square Greenmarket
13:02 starting up an organic slaughterhouse, Applestone Meat Company (Accord, NY)
15:37 charcuterie and value-added meat products
18:18 opening a 2nd Fleisher’s butcher shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn
20:05 how Don Lewis started Wild Hive Farm
21:03 Union Square Greenmarket’s influence on his baking business
22:03 Daniel Leader (Bread Alone) and rustic European baking
22:45 how Wild Hive began using Hudson Valley-grown grain
23:50 Hudson Valley’s history as “breadbasket” of United States
24:59 stone-milled flour vs. roller-milled flour
29:00 politics of accessibility of local foods in the food system
29:28 “put food by/up”
33:15 evolution of consumer interest in goods baked with local flour
36:03 selling to Eataly New York (Mario Batali, Lydia and Joe Bastianich, Oscar Farineti)
38:57 expanding acreage for Hudson Valley grains
40:22 local grain system “removed from commodity structure”
41:29 supplying Eataly Chicago
43:22 promoting regional grain-based food systems elsewhere
45:23 the operation at Wild Hive Farm in Clinton Corners
46:13 organizing growers down the food-system value chain
47:40 what is a steer? where does veal come from?
52:09 what gets valued (and what doesn’t) in the food system
53:33 how old are other meat animals when they’re slaughtered?
55:56 can organic food become less expensive?
59:59 heritage grains and regional grain variety
1:05:53 how the Hudson Valley contributes to their operations

conversation with Eric Steinman of Edible Hudson Valley

Eric Steinman, food writer and editor of Edible Hudson Valley, came to our class this week to talk about what he does and how he thinks about food and sustainable agriculture in the Hudson Valley.

Some references in this conversation:
6:03 – Milk Thistle Farm dairy
9:53 – rate of farm loss in New York
13:17 – culinary traditions of the Hudson Valley and New England
19:30 – Quilted Giraffe restaurant (New Paltz and NYC)
20:20 – Depuy Canal House (Hide Falls)
24:24 – Sprout Creek Farm cheese
29:21 – changing interest in “local food” among food publications
33:20 – farm-to-table movement
35:40 – agri-tourism
38:15 – farmers markets in NYC and the Hudson Valley
39:20 – selling directly to restaurants
39:47 – Paisley Farm (Tivoli)
42:48 – Coach Farm (Pine Plains)
43:50 – No Goat Left Behind
45:03 – Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park)
47:15 – influence of NYC on Hudson Valley agriculture
51:48 – Michael White (chef)/Marea restaurant (NYC)
56:41 – local movement to bring “added value” to agriculture
57:41 – Farm to Table Co-Packers (Kingston)
59:14 – Glynwood Center’s Apple Project (hard cider)
1:07:43 – New York state’s Farm Distillery Law
1:08:30 – Hillrock Estate Distillery (Ancram)