Sustainable Farming North of NYC

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A few weeks ago I posted a little piece on where our organic milk comes from.  I’ve got something similar this week.  But rather than milk, I’ll be visiting a source of veggies.  And eggs.  And meat.

All these edibles are grown, as sustainably as possible, at Stone Barns in Tarrytown (you may have seen it featured on Top Chef!).  I’ll spend most of this post relaying some fascinating details of the operation, but first a quick word of introduction.  Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a large non-profit project designed to celebrate, teach and advance community-based food production.  They are located north of NYC, on 80 acres of rolling hills formerly owned and operated by the Rockefellers.  The barns were originally commissioned in the 1930’s as a super-modern diary and veggie farm dedicated to the sole purpose of nourishing the magnate’s family.  After falling into disuse in the 60’s, the operation was revived and converted to it’s current mission by Peggy Rockefeller.  Most of the produce from the farm goes to the upscale Blue Hill restaurants (one on site and one in Manhattan) and to the farmer’s market.

One of the most impressive facets of Stone Barns is this half-acre, in-soil green house.  It pumps out organic veggies year-round, utilizing a state-of-the-art hot water mat-system (below right)

The soil in this greenhouse is supplemented with various composts and inputs, all of which have been produced and prepared with materials on the farm

A lot of the raw “materials” for these composts are generated by these Fin and Dorset sheep.  They spend most of their lives in the fields but were penned up on this particular day in preparation for spring shearing.  Stone Barns butchers and sells approximately 100 lambs per year.

The “materials” produced by these chickens also get used to fertilize the soils.  Like the sheep, they roam the fields in mobile hen houses (below), with about 100 individuals per vehicle.  Stone Barns keeps roughly 1200 egg producing hens (layers) and slaughters 175 broilers per week.

In addition to the chickens, Stone Barns raises other heritage breed poultry.  They’ve got a gaggle of geese and a flock of turkey.  Below is a “red bourbon” tom flanked by a few of his daintier counterparts.

And finally, the most charismatic creatures I met during my visit: Berkshire hogs.  These gals (and solitary guy) are kept in the wooded acres (their ideal habitat) of Stone Barns.  They grow to be as heavy as 700 lbs.

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