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My Independent Field Trip to Woody’s Farm-to-Table

It was the middle of study-week and one of my best friends was desperately trying to procrastinate. Conveniently enough for me, he had a car and I still had to go somewhere for my independent field trip!I While I have loved the farms that our class has visited throughout the semseter, I realized that I had not actually consumed any of the products produced in these farms (except for that one time in class 😉). I Googled Farm-to-Table restaurants and found that there was a burger joint in Cornwall that. My friends had always wanted to visit Storm King State Park, so when I found out that this restaurant was right next to it, we just had to go.

It was a cute restaurant, juxtaposed with the ugly and generic strip mall accross the street. The front looked like a normal house, but the back opened up to have some outdoor seating, which was great given the beautiful weather. The restaurant had a physical design that fit the general aesthetic I’ve noticed is common in these sorts of sustainability-focused projects. A muted green paint scheme complimented the hardwood floors, which gave the restaurant a very “organic” feel to it. It made me start to think about the way these sorts of farm-based institutions brand themselves. Is it necessary, I wondered, for restaurants that are farm-to-table to brand themselves in such a distinguishable way? Even their website was replete with wooden and green imagery:

“Eat seasonal. Eat Local. Eat Together.” This was also printed on a word-art poster they had hanging on their wall. Could it be possible that they are defining themselves as outside of what is normal? Perhaps they were attempting to justify their somewhat high prices ($14 for a burger, fries and drink!)

Photo of Woody's Farm to Table - Cornwall, NY, United States. Woodys 8oz with Swiss

While the manager of the restaurant wasn’t working while I visited, I did get to talk to some of the waiters about what Woody’s meant to them. I had just eaten their signature “All Natural 6oz Burger.” While delicious, I can’t say that it tasted particularly unique. My perception changed, however, when Jeff (my waiter) told me that all of the meat used in the burger had been produced by co-op farms in Maine. It certainly came as a surprise to me to find out that this sort of farm-to-table operation was operating on an inter-state level. Why not just use a farm in the Hudson Valley? Jeff did not know what to say when I asked him.


Nothing Fishy about Fishkill Farms

Fishkill Farms is a 270 acre apple and vegetable farm in Fishkill. It started over 100 years ago in 1913 and has been under the Morgenthau family for three generations.

The farm prides itself in growing organic vegetables and fruit that is eco-certified. Furthermore, its produce can be found in the year-round farm store and farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley and New York City.

The Fishkill Farms store consists of a diverse variety of products – from its own produce of apples, vegetables, potatoes, and eggs, to their value-added and processed fresh jams, butters, and sauces from their produce.

The farm store’s jams are quite pricey at $8 for a jar. They also have ready-to-eat products of apple cider donuts, pies, coffee, hot chocolate and Zoe’s Ice Cream (!!). According to the farm store salesperson, Fishkill Farms sends its products to another place for processing, but it intends on creating a processing site on the farm itself.

The farm store is also host to other local brands and products such as candles, soaps, seeds, ciders, cookbooks, and even dog treats. Most of these are household or farming-related items and attune to the overall good-food-good-home family atmosphere. The salesperson mentioned that people from New York City often visit, and perhaps they bring these products home as souvenirs or gifts.

The farm store is not the only evidence of the family-friendly attractive ambience Fishkill Farms wants to create. Outside the store, there are patios, plenty of picnic bench seating in various areas, a nature trail, and a chicken coop with a well-built homey structure for the chickens. The patio looks out onto the landscape of the farm, stretched onto hills amongst the background of the green and mountainous Hudson Valley. A grill and donut stall outside near the entrance add to the multi-purpose diversity of the farm to attract customers to not only buy its produce for household use, but also to sit down, relax, and enjoy food. Additionally, the farm has a cut-out frame for people to take photos in front of the landscape; the frame is adorned with drawings of fresh produce, farm animals, and apple trees, reminding visitors of the bounty the farm possesses.

After talking to one of the salespeople at the farm store, she mentioned that while their CSA programs help to provide revenue during the winter months, it is the pick-your-own programs that have helped Fishkill Farms grow to what it has become. This program allows visitors to have freedom to select their own fresh produce from June to October straight from the farm. Fishkill Farms has a poster to show visitors when is the best time to pick seasonally fresh fruits and/or vegetables.

Along with that, the farm has ongoing events related to their food, such as jamming strawberries (on June 16th), or even lending its space for weddings, birthdays, or company retreats. An educational aspect is also included by allowing students to visit for field trips or work with the staff on the farm.

Overall, it seems that Fishkill Farms not only has a great structure in maintaining its agricultural products to be fresh, organic, and environmentally-sustainable, but also markets their farm as a go-to venue, especially for a short day to experience a nature while enjoying fresh food.

Visiting A Farm-To-Table Restaurant

For my personal “farm visit,” I visited a farm-to-table restaurant with my family in order to gain some insight as to how local farmed food is served at an establishment that cooks with local ingredients (and also to eat a delicious meal).  The restaurant I visited is called Nic L Inn Wine Cellar on the Hudson is located at 135 N Water St, Poughkeepsie, just up the street from the Hudson River.

While we sat down, the owner of the restaurant came to the table to explain some information about their operation.  They proudly told us that they were a farm-to-table that used mostly local ingredients that are farm-fresh, and pointed out that various local farms were listed on the menu.  In addition to being a farm-to-table, the restaurant also made their own pasta, made their own in-house sausage, served local beer, etc. Their cheese board included three types of cheeses from Sprout Creek, including their Toussaint, Kinked, and Margie.  The chicken I ordered came from Murray Farm in Fallsburg, NY. Other farms were listed next to some of their other dishes, including Dashing Star Farm from Millterton, NY, and the Hudson Valley Cattle Company from Woodridge, NY. Their specials were written on a blackboard on the wall, which also listed other farm names.  However, much of their produce was not listed as being from a specific farm, despite the owner’s claim of local ingredients.

There was certainly an element of luxury to this type of establishment, which was very interesting to me.  I often wondered throughout some of our farm visits: who is this food being grown for and served to? Farm-to-table dining, at least in this case, certainly did not seem financially accessible to a large portion of Poughkeepsie residents.  This, of course, brings up questions of fresh-food access that we have been discussing all semester, and reminds us that it is sometimes very difficult to make enough money farming without selling specialty products to higher-end buyers.

Overall, the dining experience was wonderful and the service attentive.  While I am torn about the high-end farm-to-table initiative, which makes no effort to make local food widely available, I appreciated the privilege of being able to consume local foods with my family and boyfriend while celebrating my 22nd birthday.  However, there was no doubt in my mind that this restaurant was more of a business model than it was in genuine support of sustainable, local, organic agriculture.

By Greg

j.s.k. cattle co.

“How old are your cows when you slaughter them?” Tonya asks Heather Kading, the co-owner of the farm we’re visiting, JSK Cattle Company. “And how long can a cow live?”

“So, we’ve had our breeding cows live up to fifteen…usually like ten to twelve. We’ve had some that were fifteen,” Kading replies. “Our feeders—our ones that get corn—we usually slaughter them between sixteen and eighteen months, and our grass-fed ones are usually more like twenty-four to thirty months. They take longer to finish when they’re just on grass.”

“Do you know the, like, biological life expectancy of a cow? Like how long they can live?”

Kading pauses. “Usually like the ten to twelve. Years. For a cow, a breeding cow,” she nods.

The question is innocent, the moment only slightly awkward. Tonya Ingerson, my classmate, is a vegan. In the farm store, where we are surrounded by refrigerators of beef, pork and chicken, when I ask whether she’s angry, she replies that no, being surrounded by animal corpses evokes in her only sadness.

Heather Kading and her husband Jason are farmers, born and raised; each of them was born into a family that had been farming for generations, and the two of them met while showing beef cows in 4-H. Their 40-acre farm, primarily beef but with ancillary pork and fowl and egg operations, is located in scenic, rural Millbrook in Northern Dutchess County, a historical dairy district. They began as solely a beef breeding farm, selling the calves they produced to other farms, but began selling beef right on the premises in a farm store after demand increased among family friends and associated farms. JSK sells online and delivers, too, to accommodate for their inconvenient, out-of-the-way location. Their market is direct-to-customer. While Jason Kading handles the breeding and the care of the cows, Heather operates the business, makes deliveries. JSK’s meat is USDA-certified, as is required by law, and thus the Kadings outsource their necessary slaughtering to area slaughterhouses: Malafy’s Meat Processing in Milan (pronounced “my-lan”), New York, another in Pine Plains, and either Mountain Products or Hudson Valley Sausage Company for “things that need to be smoked.” Nothing of JSK’s goes farther than the borders of Dutchess County: “We try to keep everything as close to home as possible,” Kading tells us. “It’s also less stress on the animals.” She isn’t talking about quality of life, here, but product quality: “They can lose weight between here and there, and ‘cause they’re tense, you know, it can affect the taste of the meat.”

Tonya is gentle and journalistic in her inquiries, never attacks or criticizes Kading. Having been vegan for three years now, she is to a degree repulsed by the act of carnivory, but her motives for veganism are environmentalist and practical: “The amount of food a cow needs to grow before it gets slaughtered is so much larger than the amount of food you get from the one cow,” Tonya explained to me in an email. “Some estimates say that if we redirected all the grain that goes to grain-fed livestock in the US and gave it directly to people, we could feed 800 million mouths with it. Cows also require immense amounts of water, and we’re getting to a day and age where clean freshwater is an increasingly precious resource. Of course, JSK’s cows are mostly pasture-fed and humans can’t eat grass, but the greenhouse gas contribution of livestock (especially ruminants) is higher than that of the transportation sector (13% in transportation vs. 18% of animal agriculture).”

Kading’s motivation for going into farming ties into her own particular set of principles, which are, as she explains them to us in the farm store and then later elaborates upon as we stand in the middle of JSK’s chicken enclosure, as follows: “…Educating people on why it’s better to buy local and know where your food comes from, instead of buying stuff from the grocery store. You don’t know what country it’s coming from, anymore; you don’t know what it’s being fed. When you get to know your farmer, you get to know how things are raised, how they’re taken care of, how they’re fed. We try and give our animals the best life that they possibly can [have], you know, that’s important to us. But people can know exactly what they’re eating. We think that’s really important.”

Following Kading, we are shown not only JSK’s egg-laying chickens but their meat chickens (known as “broilers”) as well. They are pure white, and selectively bred to be lower to the ground and significantly fatter than their longer-lived relations. These chickens, Cornish Crosses, often drop dead of heart attacks; “They just can’t carry that weight,” Kading tells us.

L. to R.: Tonya, Heather Kading, & myself


Beacon Farmer’s Market

By Julia Blass

For my independent field trip, I went to the Beacon farmers market. Located right off of Main St., this farmers market operated by Common Ground farm operates year-round, and is open every Sunday. The fact that this market operates year-round is somewhat unique, and gives local farmers a consistent place to sell their goods. Despite the weather being rather cold and damp, there were still lots of people out to purchase local products at what I learned was a weekend staple of the town of Beacon. The market seemed to draw locals as well as outsiders like myself, as I saw some people having familiar conversations with vendors and others like myself seeing everything for the first time.  As it is still fairly early in the season and many fruits and vegetables are not yet ready for harvest, many of the vendors were bread and pastry sellers, prepared food sellers, or sellers of added-value products such as jams, pickles, and soaps as well as local wool products. There were also some interesting local products I had never heard of before, such as chocolate goat’s milk! I stopped to buy a strawberry rhubarb pie from Wright’s farm stand, an operation based in Gardiner that was selling baked goods and beautifully packaged fruit preserves. I also stopped for a pastry from local Beacon business Bread Alone, who are one of the farmers market’s year-round vendors. The farmers market also seemed to partner with a weekly flea market taking place in the next door lot, which proved to have some interesting finds.


The Beacon farmers market has some unique qualities that set it apart from other farmers markets that I’ve been to in the past. They have a compost collection stand run by local business Zero to Go, with the goal of making the market a zero-waste event each week. You can bring your compost to the farmers market for drop off, and Zero to Go also provides garbage and recycling bins to accurately sort and dispose of waste responsibly each week. Additionally, the Beacon farmers market allows the use of food benefit programs, which helps make local agricultural products more accessible to a wider demographic, as traditionally local agricultural products are more expensive than their conventional, imported counterparts. Being able to use food benefits such as SNAP, WIC, or FMNP checks is a huge step forward for making locall-sourced nutritious fruits and vegetables available on a wider level. Additionally, people who use these benefits at the farmers market can get bonus coupons to spend at the market. For example, for every $5 spent through SNAP, one would receive an extra $2 Fresh Connect check to use at the market. The Beacon farmers market also has benefits for WIC and FMNP, a unique programs called Greens4Greens. Under this program, every $4 spent through WIC or FMNP awards the user a $4 coupon to buy fresh fruits or vegetables at the market.

The Beacon farmers market struck me as a fine example for other farmers markets around the region to follow. In class we have often talked about how local produce is a difficult business for both the farmers who produce the food to maintain, as the demand for local products is often limited to certain demographics such as high-end restaurants or more upscale farmers markets. The use of food benefits at farmers market is a phenomenon that is just starting out, but the success of the Beacon farmers market is inspiring for the hopeful eventual spread of similar programs across the region and maybe even across the country.

For more information on the farmer’s market, their website is available here .

Shunpike Dairy!

It was a rainy morning when all 7 of us Vassar students ventured off campus to explore agriculture in the local environment. Shunpike Dairy was our first stop of the day and will be the focus of this essay. We arrived at Shunpike after the 25 minute car ride and were greeted by a fairly typical small dairy set up. A small barn and adjacent farmstand were planted among faced wooden pastures on a gently sloping and slightly rocky landscape.

Shunpike is a small local dairy that is family run out of Millbrook NY located near the Carry Institute. Shunpike’s heard holds an impressive variety of cows with e Milking Short Horns, Jerseys, Black Jerseys, Linebackers, Brown Swiss and even some Belted Galloways among their ranks. This variety of cow must produce a very interesting tasting milk, because each breed produces a slightly different type of milk as far a butterfat and nutrient richness go. Shunpike also sells their own and other value added products at their farm stand having an excellent farmers cheese available as well as a hard cheese and another farm’s maple syrup. But the crux of Shunkpike is their raw milk.

Raw milk is simply milk that hasn’t been pasteurized yet, the process used to eliminate the potentially harmful bacteria that can live in cows milk. Milk can become contaminated with these bacteria in a variety of ways, usually either the cow get an illness such as mastitius or through improper milking techniques. Mastitis is an infection of the utter that can usually be recognized by farmers observing and clumps, discoloration of blood in the milk or unusual sensitivity on a particular quarter (cow utters are divided into 4 sections called quarters, each with one teat). Cows who aren’t well cared for and are living in germ heavy environments are at higher risk for mastitis and their raw milk shouldn’t be consumed. Improper milking, milk transfer, milk storage, or general facilities could all also lead to the contamination of milk. During most milkings the cows teats are sterilized both before and after using hydrogen peroxide or iodine so make sure no bacteria are pulled off the teat into the milk, or have the chance to infect the teat for the 30 minutes it stays open after milking.

Drinking raw milk is certainly a risk, but it is not inherently unsafe, using best practices and keeping milk clean reduces the risk of infection and raw milk comes with many benefits including better taste, less processing, more profits going directly to small farmers and higher nutrient content to name a few. Shunpike and other small raw dairies are continuing to sell milk the way humans drank milk for thousands of years, and I for one very much appreciate that.

The day concluded with visits to the Vassar Farm and Sprout Creek.


Plan B? Must Bee!


Emily Watson is the co-founder of Plan Bee Farm Brewing, producing beer from completely organic and local New York ingredients – including its bees! She is originally from Ohio and her dad is a conventional farmer (hence she is knowledgeable about the amount of corn and soy sold to the state for ethanol, and not food).


Digest of topics in this video:

0:00:00 Plan A — what Emily and Evan Watson did before
0:02:28 growing and procuring New York state ingredients
0:06:29 tilling and “no till” farming
0:09:00 finding the Poughkeepsie property
0:15:00 foraging ingredients for brewing
0:18:13 harvesting yeast from honey
0:23:14 coolship brewing
0:24:53 dirty beer and wild ale
0:31:57 renovating the barn
0:33:08 ingredients foraged from the farm
0:39:22 the Plan Bee beers
0:44:56 marketing their product
0:48:50 opening the farm to the public
0:57:30 keeping bees
1:03:43 working with local farms
1:06:56 Emily’s favorite beer

One of the sustainable and organic farming methods Plan Bee Farm Brewery that Emily emphasizes, is the act of “no-tilling”. Tilling releases natural gases due to breaking up or opening up the soil and therefore, disturbing natural biome and making the soil more susceptible to any seeds. The Plan Bee Farm aims to sustain the nutrient-rich biome of the soil by no tilling.

They also really hone into the organic, natural resources available in the local New York State area. Beer mainly uses a few ingredients water, yeast, barley, hops, sour bacteria. They experiment a lot for flavours and yeast components, even foraging for berries or contacting local farms for their surplus produce to create different flavour profiles. This creates experimental craft beers with fascinating flavours such as yellow corn, pumpkin, peppers, squash, beets, dandelion and her favourite – quince and blackcurrant!

Of course, the bee component is a huge one in which their honey is used to ferment the mead and is used as yeast cultures for their beer, and they use about 120 pounds of honey to flavour. Emily also discussed about the temperateness of the yeast, requiring an environment of not too cold, not too hot, about 68 degrees temperature, and even their own food. Yet, despite the need to control these variables, the founders still brew beers in the Old World Style, with an open batch where the area will cool and the ambient yeast will be around. The surrounding wood also eats the sugar, converting it into alcohol and producing carbon dioxide. Their solution to yeast gone wrong is to put it into oak.

Their distribution is quite unique as they struggle with land and autonomy in Poughkeepsie, and is 1 out of the 5 last farms that are agriculturally distinct. They are still waiting for a license to allow customers into the space but at the moment, have mainly distributors and retailers online and can sell out of the door of their farm.

The Farm Bridge: Kingston, NY- Ethan and Diego

April 6 2018,

Ethan Pierce and Diego Encarnacion

The Farm Bridge is an agricultural company specializing in making value added product located in Kingston, NY – last week our class got a chance to visit and this is what we saw.

Greeted by an unassuming and vaguely industrial entrance way our class of Vassar student ventured toward our destination, The Farm Bridge. Our class has set out this semester to better understand agriculture in the Hudson Valley and the effects that has had on a sociological level. After a week one visit to Sprout Creek Farm we took a step down the production line to The Farm Bridge. After we navigated some poor signage and a later-in-a-small-hallway situation we entered the Offices of The Farm Bridge and were greeted by the founder. After a short presentation we donned some almost inappropriately sexy hair nets and ventured out onto the floor. Here we saw the real operation where products sourced from (mostly) local farmers are mixed to a client’s specification to create their product. On the floor we saw lots of carrot peeling and slicing, bone broth pouring, some sort of pickling involving gallons and gallons of Florida’s Natural orange and grapefruit juice and a machine that used to be used from pill counting and weighing that had been repurposed for sunflower seeds. Then then proceeded to the nut roasting room and through some storage facilities toward the conference room we began our journey in.

During our time at The Farm Bridge we pondered many questions of sustainability and agriculture and what role that has to play here in the Hudson Valley. Living in a city where ¼ households are food insecure it seemed almost wasteful to be turning this fresh produce into higher value products that low income/food insecure households would no longer have access to because of the niche markets they serve and the higher cost of the product. It would be a public health interest for The Farm Bridge to do what its title seems to indicate, which is bridging the gap between farms who are looking for markets to sell their products and and the residents that need this most. That being said you have to factor the need of the farmers in here. The Farm Bridge is providing contracts for farmers in the area for large quantities and regular orders even hosting drop off days for tomatoes where they would pay any farmer. This reliable and regular source of income is a huge relief for farmers who often don’t know if they will be able to sell all their produce.





We departed The Farm Bridge after taking a tour of its facilities and meeting many of thepeople working there. Our next destination was the county seat of Ulster County, Kingston. Although our time there was somewhat rushed, we still attained a sense of what the town was like, splitting into smaller groups to peruse the shops, restaurants and monuments of the city. One of the most enjoyable aspects of city was the strong presence of smaller, family-run businesses. Personal favorites include the was Rough Draft, a bookstore and bar that had a certain charm to it. Definitely worth going back to!



Goat Love

My name is Tamika and I am from El Cerrito, CA (in the San Francisco Bay Area). I’m excited for this class because visiting local farms every week is very much my cup of tea 🙂

Tamika and a Goat!
Fulfilling my childhood dreams to be Heidi