Tag Archives: #HudsonValley

Nick’s Independent Trip to McEnroe Organic Farm!

Hello everyone! For my independent trip I visited McEnroe Farm in Millerton, NY. Only a 45 minute drive away from Vassar, McEnroe farms is perhaps best known as the site that all of Vassar’s composting goes to be turned into delicious, rich, organic soil! But the farm also grows organic fruits, produce, herbs, seeds, and feed for the livestock they have. I wanted to visit McEnroe because I thought it’d be cool to learn about a farm fulfilling an interesting and really important job for the Hudson Valley network of farms — turning food waste, manure, and leaves into soil to be used by farmers and growers all over the region! Here’s what I learned.

First, here’s some history. McEnroe Farm is one of NY State’s oldest organic-certified farms. The farm was originally a small, family-run dairy operation, starting in 1953! Throughout the years the farm underwent a lot of transition, until in 2000 it began its now wildly successful composting program. Seven years later, the farm began a really cool education program to allow both kids and adults to come in, get their hands dirty, and learn about farming and the wonder that is composting! Today, the farm grows a wide variety of plants, raises cattle for beef, as well as poultry, pigs, and sheep.

Ok, let’s talk composting. I’ve always been a huge fan of composting myself, though I definitely could’ve been better at it while in college. My favorite thing about composting is that you can turn almost any — almost ANY — organic material into beautiful, dark, and rich soil ripe for growing healthy plants. Last year I tried my hand at vermicomposting – composting with worms – which was really fun, especially since I got the chance to order 500 words in the mail. In only one semester, my worms transformed my pretty meager and altogether unhealthy food scraps into like 7 inches of rich black soil! So.. you can imagine my excitement when I arrived at the McEnroe composting arena and saw THIS:That’s right! We’re talking hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of beautiful black soil. McEnroe takes composting inputs from dozens of different farms, institutions, and organizations (as well as their own significant amount of organic waste) to create this stuff. They use the majority of it for their own growing purposes – they have multiple greenhouses and cold-frames, as well as many acres of growing fields – so they need a lot of soil. But for over two decades now, McEnroe has also sold their compost commercially to anything from landscaping businesses, parks, other farms, gardens, and green rooftops.



Greenhouse-grown tomatoes growing out of soil made on-site through the composting operation!

I found the McEnroe Farm model really interesting, especially as it compares to the other farms we visited this semester. McEnroe is a big farm – it encompasses over 1,110 acres of land – so it dwarfs most of the smaller-scale farms that we visited. This relatively larger scale definitely affords this farm some things that other, smaller farms can’t make work. McEnroe has a market open every weekday where they can sell their produce, whereas many of the smaller farms depend on dedicated customers through programs like a season-long CSA program to sustain their operations. Additionally, McEnroe has an on-site kitchen where you can buy value-added products either to eat at the farm or to take home with you. These are things that smaller-scale farms can’t really afford to do (at least from what I know from visiting a handful this semester), but the larger scope of McEnroe allows for some more expensive forms of diversifying their sales and getting new customers.

Visiting McEnroe was a really great experience, and I highly recommend it. I’d never visited a farm with such a large and dedicated composting operation, and it was really cool to see a farm not only growing food and livestock, but also making healthy soil for other producers in the region. For more information on McEnroe Farm, click here!

The Class Goes to Phillies

Our class recently visited the Phillies Bridge Farm Project in New Paltz, NY. It was a rainy April day, but the energy and excitement of the farm team kept us going!

The Phillies Bridge Farm Project – if you can, consider donating to help the farm get a new tractor! All donations are matched.

The Phillies Bridge Farm Project is run by a large team of directors, managers, farmers, and apprentices. On our visit we got the chance to meet a handful of them – Dan Guenther, one of the co-founders of the farm, Mr. Guenther’s wife, who described herself as a “naturalist who hates farming,” Myriam Bouchard, the farm’s administrative coordinator, and Rhyston Mays, a farm apprentice who recently graduated from Vassar!

The farm project has a really interesting history. A non-for-profit farm since 1999, Phillies Bridge provides a wide range of educational opportunities centering around local agriculture. They offer a summer day camp for kids where they can get their hands dirty and explore the Discovery Garden, as well as agricultural workshops for adults. But don’t get me wrong – they also grow a ton of

Tasty tasty tasty produce!!

fresh and organic vegetables and herbs. The farm operates a large CSA program that allows customers to pick up a box (one of two sizes) of fresh produce and herbs every week. The farm offers over 150 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you can get. And what’s more, CSA customers get the option to ‘pick-your-own-field’ any day of the week during daylight hours.

Prof. Nevarez and farm apprentice/Vassar alum Rhyston Mays look out over one of the farm’s growing acres

Hearing about Dan’s motivations for farming was pretty inspiring. One of the first things Dan did was hold up the acclaimed book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Dan told us that basically everything he does falls along the same argument that Pollan makes – the American food system is unsustainable and unjust, and we need to do something about it. That something, for Dan, was starting the Phillies Bridge Farm Project. The farm seeks to show that local and sustainably grown agriculture can be economically feasible, ecologically sustainable, and can be done in a way that is socially just.

Mr. and Mrs. Guenther tell us about their produce

At this point in the visit the wind and rain were making it a bit hard to sit still, so our hosts took us on a walking tour of the farm. Though the nature trail was closed, the farm’s land was plenty beautiful. Phillies Bridge also has a recently built, climate-controlled hoop house where they grow plants until they’re ready to be transplanted to the outdoors. Inside, safe from the rain and surrounded on all sides by lush vegetation, our hosts afforded us the opportunity to simply look at and smell their produce as we pleased.

The Phillies Bridge Farm Project is a really cool place. The farm is beautiful, its motivations are so good, and everyone we met seemed to really believe in the farm’s mission statement. Plus, I would’ve loved to go to a summer camp there as a kid. I definitely recommend paying the farm a visit and meeting with the cool people that run it. For more information about the Phillies Bridge Farm Project, check out their website!


Rise & Root Farm

By Aidan Zola and Tamika Whitenack

We arrived at Rise & Root Farm, located in Chester, New York, on a sunny Friday afternoon. Rise & Root Farm was founded in 2014 by four women–Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger, Jane Hodge, and Michaela Hayes–who all had a vision. On their three acres of leased land, they grow a huge range of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, most of which go to farmer’s markets in lower-income parts of New York City as part of their food justice and sustainability mission. They farm side-by-side with three other farms, all of them pledged to grow organically, in the rich black soil that Chester is known for.

When we first stepped out of the van, we were greeted at the farm by Michaela. She gave us a very brief introduction to the farm before Karen Washington emerged from the storage barn, welcoming us to the farm and inviting us inside. Ms. Washington served as our guide for the farm, and throughout our visit we gained an insight into her vision and mission through her charismatic personality and conversation.

We began our visit in the storage barn, where Ms. Washington explained that this space and land is actually shared between Rise & Root and three other farms. The land is actually owned by investors, which was helpful in Rise & Root’s initial establishment on the land. As Ms. Washington explained, getting land is one of the most difficult aspects of starting to farm, and being able to lease land from the investors assists in this challenge. Rise & Root and the three other farms on the land cooperatively share the storage space, farm fields, and greenhouses on the land. Although they are each independent farms, Ms. Washington highlighted that they share many of the same values and have an understanding about acceptable farming practices and land use.

After showing us some seedlings in the storage barn, we ventured out into one of the high tunnels. Ms. Washington explained the way in which high tunnels allow farmers to extend the growing season by allowing plants to grow protected from the outside elements and weather conditions. The abundance of growth in the high tunnel showcased the fertile properties of Chester’s black soil, and we even got to taste some of the edible flowers flourishing in the corner. Most of us were pleasantly surprised, the taste was similar to raw broccoli.

Ms. Washington then brought us into a second high tunnel where she talked about her experience as a food justice advocate and social justice activist. A resident of the Bronx for more than 25 years, Ms. Washington discussed her first-hand experience with low-income communities and disparities with access to affordable, healthy foods. She lamented the lack of whole produce that is made available to these types of communities, and shared her vision for the future. Ms. Washington also runs an urban farm in New York City–Garden of Happiness–and has kickstarted a local farmer’s market that is located in the Bronx. She concluded our tour with some words of encouragement and wisdom: always chase after your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you.

Main Course Is My New Main Squeeze

New Paltz is a town known for its unique array of shops, proximity to the great outdoors, and the youthful, granolay, nature-loving population it attracts. The Main Course is one culinary hotspot that has placed New Paltz at the vanguard of the Hudson Valley’s local agricultural movement and contributed to the town’s trendy vibe.

Outside shot of the Main Course restaurant on Main Street in New Paltz.
Outside shot of the Main Course restaurant on Main Street in New Paltz.

Located at the head of Main Street, Main Course is a farm-to-table restaurant and catering business that was started 26 years ago by chef Bruce Kazan. The menu features an eclectic mix of fresh salads, sandwiches, soups, and entrees that are made with seasonal foods and locally sourced meats. Since its opening, Main Course has been committed to providing customers with quality local ingredients and has sprouted up as a dining hotspot within the New Paltz community.

Some fresh samples of various menu options on display.
Some fresh samples of various menu options on display.

On a spring afternoon, I visited Main Course to get a taste of the Hudson Valley’s fresh produce. After enjoying a delicious eggplant sandwich that combined roasted red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese, I had the opportunity to chat with Hogan, the Assistant Director of Catering. Hogan is a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and a self-declared foodie, so working for Main Course has been a perfect way of combining his culinary skills and passion for quality food. Hogan emphasized the restaurant’s dedication to sustainability, consistency, and community.

Main Course depends on a number of purveyors that stretch across the valley for its meats and produce, including Sprout Creek Farm in Duchess County, Russell Farms in Rhinebeck, the very local Phillies Bridge Project in New Paltz, and Baldor, a company that distributes local produce throughout the Northeast. While the restaurant does not require purveyors to don the organic label (mostly due to the fact that the term “organic” has become a liberally used buzzword that is no longer indicative of quality or freshness), they do ensure that each vendor has high standards in terms of animal welfare, low environmental impact, and sustainability. Hogan made it clear that The Main Course only uses food that is local and “sourced responsibly.”

The Main Course also sells a collection of local products made by some of their purveyors.
The Main Course also sells a collection of local products made by some of their purveyors.

The catering business is just as dedicated to serving local, low environmental impact food as the restaurant. Kazan and his team prepare seasonal custom menus for each venue they cater, which typically include weddings, corporate events, and banquets. According to Hogan, they are already set to cater nearly 30 weddings in 2017.

The Main Course’s popularity can be accredited to its commitment to cultivating a more intimate relationship between people and the food they eat. The restaurant values open communication and transparency as necessary elements of every step of food production, whether that means maintaining a dialogue with each purveyor or visiting the farms for a first-hand look at where their ingredients are coming from. By supporting local farmers and providing consumers with the confidence that they are eating in a more sustainable way, The Main Course creates a unique foodie environment where people can enjoy a delicious, locally sourced meal and feel more connected to the agricultural communities that sustain the Hudson Valley. As Hogan beautifully summed it up during our conversation, with all of the negative environmental and social impacts that stem from the industrialization of agriculture, eating local is simply “the right thing to do.”


An inside look at the Main Course's kitchen.
An inside look at the Main Course’s kitchen.

Cowboy John

Hello! My name is John Tapscott and I’m a senior from Tupelo, Mississippi.  I study economics and German studies, but now it’s time I finally learn more about the Hudson Valley. Here’s a pic of me with a Swiss Brown cow at Stormfield Swiss Dairy Farm.



Making New Friends

Hi, I’m Lily! I’m a senior American Studies major from New York City. I first became interested in sustainable agriculture during my time at a VT dairy farm in high school, and am excited to learn more about its role in the Hudson Valley! Here is a picture of me and my new best friend at Stormfield Swiss in Wappinger’s Falls.