Last week, the New York Times ran a short editorial entitled "Death of a Farm," on the closing of America’s oldest continually operating farm in New Hampshire - Tuttle’s Red Barn farm. John Tuttle first started the 240 acre farm in 1632 when he arrived to the New World from England. Since then, it’s been passed down 11 generations. To drive home the point of how long ago that was, in 1632, Gallileo was still publishing and was forced, by the Pope, to recant the idea that the earth orbits the sun the following year. On Tuttle’s Red Barn Farm website, the current Tuttle family cites that the decision to close was borne from an exhaustion of resources including their bodies, minds, hearts, imagination, equipment, machinery, and finances. Dwindling sales from customers that used to use shopping carts are now spending thrifty using only their hands for what they can afford to carry out. Implicit in their explanation is the fact that it’s just cheaper to buy your food from the A&P than from a family run farm. This sad story brought tears to my eyes that quickly dried when I toured the Glynwood Center in Cold Spring, NY this week.
Providing me with more Kleenex (or Seventh Generation facial tissue), though this time for tears of joy, the Hudson Valley is now an area that Obama has recognized as one of the 25 places in the country being considered by the government as a top prioroity area for land protection and the revitalization of rural communities. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as part of the Great Outdoors Listening Tour, was there to learn from people directly involved in finding grassroots solutions to conserving our lands and waters and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors. The Rockland Farm Alliance, for which Hook Mountain Growers is now an active member of the Board of Directors for the Cropsey Farm, was represented at the meeting on August 6th, 2010.
The mission of the center is simple: to help communities in the Northeast save farming. This non-profit center’s values are summed up here:
“Glynwood believes that the rural working landscape is one of civilization’s highest achievements—that a countryside featuring healthy pastures, productive crops, fruitful orchards, well-managed woodlots, and sturdy barns is aesthetically beautiful and emblematic of thriving communities...Glynwood maintains that farming done in harmony with the natural environment can be both economically viable and environmentally sustainable...Glynwood regards food produced, distributed, and consumed locally as beneficial to human health and community, and to the natural environment.”
Glynwood’s unassuming entrance led us on a road to the main farm. One must drive slowly and mindfully, traversing a bucolic narrow dirt road within the woods that follows a gentle brook. Immediately you feel a transformation into a miraculous woodland reminiscent of Thoreaus’s Walden Pond. We passed by one of the many cottages on the property with one being used as the backdrop to a Christmas photo shoot for the clothing company Aeropostale. It ‘s August and holiday wreaths and mistletoe were strewn at every doorway. Not so unusual if Christmas is in...Santa Barbara. Ironically and sadly, it makes financially more sense to rent out your farm for a photo shoot because it sure brings in more money than selling vegetables. Past the hoopla we met the venerable Dave Llewellyn, the head farmer at the center for a special insiders tour. We first met Dave at a lecture he gave at the Young Farmer’s Conference at Stone Barns in December 2009. His lecture sparked our interest in Nutrient Density farming and changed the way we view the soil and food quality.
Dave grows vegetables in two separate areas: one is 3/4 of an acre and the other is 1/2 acre. Of course, this doesn’t tell you much about the rest of the farm. It’s 225 rolling pastoral acres are home to the grazing fields for cows, sheep, goats, chickens and horses. One horse, named Maggie is even being used as a draught horse! Beautiful young smiling lady farmers in electric tractors whiz by mowing down paths, man (or woman) the CSA distribution center, and make sure irrigation is working. Ahh, I think I’ve found paradise. I find out that their grass-fed cattle and poultry are sold to their CSA members and I wish I lived in the area to take part of this bounty.
As Dave brings us to the growing areas, he mentions that the Glynwood center is in the process of leasing 15 acres in nearby Garrison, NY, for more growing. We were a little shocked that they couldn’t find that acreage in their 225 acre center, but Dave pointed out that most of the land is rolling land perfect for grazing (and probably grape growing) but not for vegetables. We found out that Dave has only been doing this for 10 years, prior to that, he was a law clerk. He then founded and managed a now defunct CSA in Mahwah, New Jersey with his wife before coming to Glynwood. His plans for the 15 acres is groundbreaking. It’s not just 15 acres for growing, but it’s going to be a model for how one can economically start-up and run a farming operation in the Northeast. A very important mission since, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of our current farmers are now over 55 years old and the new generation of farmers need to be innovative especially faced with energy, climate and water challenges. Kudos for Dave and the Glynwood Center for promoting sustainable agriculture in this area on a whole new level.
This recent barn addition will house their first boot stomping Barn-Dance gala on Saturday September 11, 2010 which includes a 3 course dinner with the bounty of the Hudson Valley and, of course, dancing. This is the chance to “revel in supporting Glynwood’s mission to saving farming.” So if you were moved by the closing of the Tuttle’s Red Barn Farm in NH, don’t wallow in despair, there are still so many things you can do to promote the movement like spend your dollars at the farmers market or at your local family farm or just even coming to the Gala and better yet, if you can, donate to the cause. And if you're a local Rockland resident, donating to the Rockland Farm Alliance will help two new community farms come to fruition.