• Karen Seiger

Guest Market: Stone Barns Center Is Creating the Future of Farming

Stone Barns Center’s Sunday Farm Market

A visit to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is the day trip you dream about. Rolling fields, delicious food, adorable piggies, and all less than an hour from New York City.

Cow weathervane atop Stone Barns Center

Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, NY is a beautiful farm situated on the Rockefeller Estate. And it is a farm with a mission to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all by:

  1. Increasing public awareness of healthy, seasonal and sustainable food.

  2. Training farmers in resilient, restorative farming techniques.

  3. Educating children about the sources of their food, and preparing them to steward the land that provides it.

Peggy Rockefeller helped to found the American Farmland Trust in the 1970’s to preserve small family farms in the US. She was passionate about preserving our culture of agriculture. When she passed, the family decided to make Stone Barns in her honor as an education center focused on sustainable agriculture.

Almost 10,000 students visit the farm every year.  They learn about where food actually comes from. They touch the soil, meet the chickens and sample the produce. Their relationship with food represents hope for the future of health and nutrition in this country. The stakes are that high.

Barrel of fresh cabbages

You can visit the farm any day of the week, but Sundays are special because the Stone Barns Farm Market is open.

I will preface the market story by saying that Stone Barns is home to Blue Hill, one of the finest restaurants in the United States and the world and also the place where James and I had the best meal we have ever experienced. We spent the afternoon wandering around the farm and visiting the animals. A few minutes before our dinner reservation, we changed clothes in the restroom and proceeded to have the finest meal of our lives. So we figured the farm market had to be something special.

The market is a small affair. In fact, there are only four vendors. However, they supply everything you want in a farmers market: gorgeous produce and proteins straight from the farm, beautiful baked goods, and lovely cheeses and cured meats. It is best to get there early because the vendors sell out.

Jacuterie dried sausage charcuterie hand crafted in the Hudson Valley

Laura Neil, Marketing and Philanthropy Manager at Stone Barns, met us at the market, which takes place alongside what they call a “dooryard garden,” with flowers, vegetables and lots of important bugs. You will see signs among the plants, telling you what you are looking at. You will also see agricultural experiments going on, like apples covered in sleeves to keep the fruit safe from insects without using chemicals.

The market was originally open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon. But the farmers reported a large amount of food waste. It is hard to preserve fresh produce for three days out in the summer heat. So Stone Barns switched it to Sundays for a full day, and the schedule has worked much better for the vendors.

As for the clientele, many are day-trippers from the city, and many are return shoppers who look forward to seeing their farmers, bakers and cheese makers every weekend. There’s nothing like having a strong relationship with your market vendors because they’ll always tell you what’s best that week and set aside special veggies and pastries for you.

Red Barn Farm Rustic Apple Tart

The four market vendors include Stone Barns Farm itself, with incredible produce grown just steps from the market table. Amazing Real Live Food Company brings cheese and butters that they make themselves at Chaseholm Farm Creamery, as well as cured meats from Hudson Valley’s JACüTERIE. Red Barn Bakery brings gorgeous breads, fruit and vegetable tarts, luscious brownies and more, made with ingredients from the Stone Barns Farm. The Pure Food Sisters bring organic pestos made with basil and arugula. Inside the wonderful gift shop is a freezer with fresh cuts of meat from the farm, including poultry, lamb and pork.

We went home with an apple tart, a variety of leafy greens, and some amazing cheeses.

Stone Barns also has a CSA available to its members. Since this farm is a non-profit, the CSA is more for educational purposes. Nonetheless, you can enjoy a share of the amazing produce from the farm throughout the growing season. Signup starts in February, which is traditionally the slow season for farmers. The funding comes in just when the farm needs to invest in seeds and other equipment for the new growing season. It’s like a futures investment, where the return on your investment is perfect tomatoes and dark green kale.

“When we eat better, we will enjoy life better,” Jack Algiere, Stone Barns Farm Manager

We had the good fortune of meeting up with Farm Manager Jack Algiere who spoke with us at length about the philosophy and goals of Stone Barns Center. He also told us about the farm apprenticeships. Aspiring and beginning farmers apply for a year-long apprenticeship at Stone Barns Center, where they learn everything they need to know about running “a sustainable farm in harmony with nature.”

One of our biggest food security problems, according to Jack, is that industrial farm system we created in the 1980’s is so out of synch with nature. The strain on the land, the use of chemicals and the disregard for natural processes has taken its toll on the quality and safety of our food supply. One of his missions through Stone Barns is to reconnect people with their food, with their land, and with their community.

“When we eat better, we will enjoy life better,” Jack said.

The Paletas cookbook by Fany Gerson in the Stone Barns Gift Shop

He was right, of course, especially on that day. For lunch at Blue Hill Café, which offers light breakfast or lunch options, we picked out several different salads, a piece of roasted chicken, Stone Barns’ own sweet potato yogurt and a lovely dessert, all of which we ate on a bench next to the market. We also paid a visit to the large gift shop, where I found many products and books by local artisans and chefs whom I know from the markets in New York City, including Claudia Pearson and Fany Gerson of La NewYorkina.

Laura took us for a walk around the farm. We visited the young turkeys and the pigs snoozing in their fresh hay. They all have plenty of room in their enormous, clean, breezy compounds, more like large tents than barns. We saw sheep in a meadow, fiercely protected by a beautiful white sheepdog named Murphy, who is mix of Akbash, Anatolian and Pyrenees. (Find his picture below.)

Turkey Parade? Visit the farm on October 5th

The farmers market at Stone Barns Center is just a part of the experience you will have when you go there. The work they do in agriculture and food systems management is of tremendous importance to everyone on earth, frankly. But as you stroll leisurely among the happy pigs, calm chickens, bright flowers and busy bees, all that really matters is the fact that you are spending a wonderful day on a beautiful farm.

NOTE: The Stone Barns 11th Annual Harvest Fest is on October 5th. Get your tickets for a day of music, butter making, hayrides, sheep moving and the Farm Olympics, and top it all off with the Turkey Parade!

The Stone Barns Farm Market is open every Sunday from 10AM – 4PM.

You can take the Metro North from New York City to Tarrytown, pick up a taxi at the station, and call the driver when you’re ready to return. Visit the site for driving directions.

Follow Stone Barns on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture

Stone Barns Center Sunday Farm Market and Dooryard Garden

Beautiful food in a beautiful market, tended by a Stone Barns farmer apprentice

Colorful beets, garlic and dahlias

It’s a Claudia Pearson Stone Barns Tote! You may know her work from the Brooklyn Flea.

Iced spearmint tea tasting on a hot market day

I felt healthier just looking at this kale

Mini gherkin cucumbers or watermelons for mice?

Helpful hints in the doorway garden

Garden flower cart at the entry to the gift shop

Take home farm-raised meats from the gift shop freezer

Stone Barns Center Dooryard Garden and Apple Tree Grove

Stone Barns Farm Silos and Hay Loft, inspired by traditional Norman farm buildings

Looking up the Stone Barns Silo

Murphy the Stone Barns Sheepdog

Murphy’s sheep relaxing under the shady trees

At a fork in the woods

Pigs or bees?

We opted to see the bees first

Stone Barns Center Apiaries

They don’s call them busy bees for nothing

Stone Barns’ Free Range Chickens

Little Piggy

Happy as pigs in…

Hanging with Stone Barns Center’s Laura Neil

Turkeys ranging in their vast environs

Visit Stone Barns Center’s Farm Market every Sunday

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© 2020 by Karen Seiger

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