When you think of a farm what comes to mind? I instantly think of sheep, pigs, chickens, and cows and, oh let’s not forget, the smell. Having never been on a farm I was not sure what to expect, when Anthony Morgan Jones, Professor Land, and toured Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture, a local non-profit farm located down the road from Pace University. It was nothing like what I expected, but that’s because it’s not your average farm.
Davis Rockefeller and his daughter Peggy Dulany founded Stone Barns as a memorial to Peggy in the belief that people should be able to ask questions about their food. In 2004, Stone Barns opened its doors to the public for the first time and has been operating and growing since.
Stone Barns’ mission is to improve the way Americans eat and farm. There are three different programs offered at the farm to help advance that mission. For instance, there are tours and classes offered for the general public. For children, there are school trips and a farm camp that runs for eight weeks. There is also the Growing Farmers Initiative, which allows young farmers to work with the experts at Stone Barns to learn about sustainable practices.
There are 4 ½ acres of land allotted for vegetables . Soil is the building blocks of farming. Farmers use crop rotation and plant-by-plant families. If tomatoes are planted in one area of the field they won’t be planted in that area again for another seven years. Stone Barns grows their vegetables all year-round. For instance, spinach will grow through the winter, the farmers will place plastic covers to keep the elements off the plants. The farmers don’t worry about the spinach freezing from the ground up but rather from the cold snow and freezing rain hitting the plants’ leaves. They use straw as cover crops to keep the soil in place.
The animals are also moved around the lands to prevent holes from forming in the ground. If the same animals graze in the same spot they press down the dirt, causing holes to form. There is a process in place where the animals will graze and the following year vegetables will be grown on the field to replenish the soil.
On the Stone Barns property there is a restaurant named Blue Hill. Crops are grown by what is in demand and what the chef needs. Numerous conversations are held between the chef and farmer on what plants should be grown. Blue Hill buys and rents space from Stone Barns and has the same mission as Stone Barns but they go about it in a different way. Stone Barns is a nonprofit and has a partnership with the profit-making Blue Hills.
As a non-profit, Stone Barns is not your average farm. Because of its educational and awareness programming it needs to fundraise through grants and other means. It also has the opportunity to gain knowledge through experimentation with different seed and growing practices, which it can then pass on to the young farmers. Throiugh the Growing Farmers Initiative there are classes such as, business, law, and welding, offered to the young farmers to train them i the tools they will need to be successful.
The tour of Stone Barns was a great experience. We are inverstigating a possible partnership between Stone Barns and Pace University, to make available some of its sustainable, local food on our own campus.