Though the weather tried for the longest time to insist otherwise, another spring is finally here, and all of NEFA’s projects—and more important, its farmer lessees—are in high gear. So much to update you on (and don’t miss the links to all our farmers on Instagram at the very end, where you can follow them and track their progress all season long):
At Copake Agricultural Center, Copake NY
Farmers at NEFA’s first agricultural center celebrated four years on the land in March. The project has proven to be the kind of fertile ground we’d hoped, as each of our inaugural farms has grown and evolved—sometimes in ways we could not even have imagined.
Tiny Hearts Farm
Jenny Elliott and Luke Franco, the flower specialists of Tiny Hearts Farm, have not just 15 acres under lease, including a bigger-than-ever new greenhouse, but just opened a showroom and studio in nearby Hillsdale. Hundreds of people attended their May 5 grand opening.
The new space, created for them by Matthew White of Hillsdale General Store and HGS Home Chef, will support their wedding-flower business in particular. It will also be the location for their floral classes and other special events, and serve as a weekly pickup location for their fast-growing flower CSA. (More on their CSA at this link on the Tiny Hearts website.)
Plus: The next member of the Tiny Hearts family, joining Luke, Jenny and young George, is due in June. What a year for Tiny Hearts.
Mx Morningstar Farm
Max Morningstar and Maria Zordan are the faces of MX Morningstar Farm (above), a 60-acre farm growing certified organic vegetables for wholesale and restaurant customers in the Hudson Valley, New York City, Berkshire, Litchfield, and Westchester county areas.
The farm specializes in the production of root crops, squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and sells produce year-round. As well as wholesale and restaurant sales, the farm also attends the Great Barrington Farmers Market in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Originally a CSA and retail-focused business, MX Morningstar Farm has streamlined production and marketing techniques over the last four (going on five!) seasons to focus on a core group of crops that can be kept in storage facilities and sold year-round. The farm believes in valuing all aspects of the operation equally. From the product to the soil to the farmer’s life quality.
“Though many things have changed over the years in Copake,” says Max, “the values that make the farm what it is remain the same.”
Max and Maria’s many friends in the Hudson Valley-Berkshire community are also thrilled at the recent announcement of their engagement to be married.
Sparrow Arc Farm
Matt and Heather Linehan of Sparrow Arc Farm, who have transitioned to farming on even larger acreage than ever adjacent to the Copake Ag Center they helped establish, just closed on and moved into their own home, a sign that they are literally invested in the community that NEFA introduced them to.
The Belt Farm, on the hillside
One of NEFA’s investors in both the Copake and Esopus centers, Farmland Preservation LLC, has purchased the 70-acre hilltop Belt Farm at Copake from NEFA.
“We’re engaged in setting up a vision and plan for this special property,” says Dominik Eckenstein, founder of Farmland Preservation. “Two young farmers have joined us for small-scale production and general help on the land.”
Babacar Kebe (who worked last year on the Belt Farm land) and Meagan Callahan of Catkin Farm (also part of the MX Morningstar crew) are settling in happily, and recruiting of more farmers with NEFA’s help is under way.
Jonathan Sadlowe of Borough Mushrooms is the newest lessee at Copake, with plans to produce varieties that will include shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms there.
“By May we were in the final buildout construction phase at Borough Mushrooms,” Jonathan reports. “We are ramping up the production side of the business, and looking forward to producing mushrooms later this summer. It’s been a great six months since moving the operation to Copake, and we hope we can have a positive impact in the community and region.”
At Esopus Agricultural Center, in Ulster
So much activity at Kingston: Renovations of the shared farmhouse and garage have been mostly completed, and various land improvements, such as increased irrigation and power, are also under way. Adding cold storage and also wash-pack facilities are coming into view, too.
An exciting partnership with ChoShields Studio architecture firm and Walter Cudnohufsky Associates, Inc. landscape architects and planners is enabling Esopus to lay out a master plan, aimed to determine the best land uses and ways to further develop its infrastructure.
In mid-May, as part of NEFA’s agroecology efforts, Esopus supporters, community members and farmers gathered for a meal and to sow buckwheat (photo above) on a recently cleaned-up and disced field that is the focus of revitalization effort this year at Old Chambers Farm.
Tyler Dennis’s Alewife Farm is thriving on its 48 acres at Esopus, up from 31 in 2017, already reaping the benefits of ambitious cover-cropping efforts and also harvesting an impressive crop of peas (above) in May from transplants grown in his high tunnels.
“Though we’re growing mostly the same vegetable crops as in 2017,” says Tyler, “we are doing more of everything, especially carrots.” He’s planning for 8 acres of fall carrots (up from 4 last year), for example.
Seed Song Farm
Creek Iversen at Seed Song Farm continues to engage the local community and connect them to the Esopus land in various ways, from his annual seedling sales to summer camp sessions for children and more.
Allora Farm and Flowers’ Amanda Kingsley is subleasing from Seed Song this year, and plans to lease 8 acres starting next, for heritage herbs and more to sell to local stores and restaurants.
Ever-Growing Family Farm will lease 4 acres this year for a first planting of several varieties of rice on wetlands adjacent to the Resource Protection Area.
Monadnock Agricultural Center, New Hampshire
MAC was established in 2017 to purchase Maple Homestead Farm, in the Town of Marlborough, New Hampshire, the first of several planned acquisitions.
Maple Homestead, with a rich history, has 135 acres of fields, woodlands, views, and 1,200 feet on Spectacle Pond, plus some of the finest agricultural soils in the area. A conservation easement for agricultural use is already in place for a portion of the farm, and NEFA is working with the Monadnock Conservancy to expand the easement on most of the remaining 82 acres.
On the lower fields, we plan limited development with several small green-design houses around a restorative agricultural landscape. Bridging the two farm areas is diversified farming, a center for our agroecology work, Tisané’s herb and food farming, plus artist residencies in four-season farm cabins, the carriage barn and farmhouse. We can research and learn from our agroecology work and share that research with the broader organic community.
Follow our Farmers on Instagram
- Tiny Hearts Farm
- Mx Morningstar Farm
- Sparrow Arc Farm
- Tyler Dennis/Alewife Farm
- Creek Iversen/Seed Song Farm
- Borough Mushrooms
- Catkin Farm (on the Belt Hillside)
- Allora Farm and Flowers
- Ever-Growing Family Farm (on Facebook)
- NEFA on Instagram