The Farm Hub Welcomes Field Crops Production Manager Jay Goldmark

We are pleased to welcome our new field crops production manager, Jay Goldmark. With experience as both a farmer and educator, Jay’s background makes him uniquely equipped for this newly created position at the Farm Hub.

Until recently, Jay was based in eastern Washington managing his third-generation family farm, Double J Ranch, where he was instrumental in implementing no-till seeding techniques and organic farming practices. He also oversaw the production of crops, ranging from commercial grain to irrigated alfalfa and a variety of cover crops. Not only is Jay a seasoned farmer, he is also a researcher and educator. While earning his MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, Jay worked as a research assistant, and as a teacher at the Double Discovery Program in Harlem, NY.

At the Farm Hub, Jay’s role will include an educational component, as he provides support for the ProFarmer training program, the small grains research trial, and also in-field training for the crew.

We asked Jay some questions about his experience and how he sees himself integrating into the Farm Hub.

You spent nearly a decade managing an 8,000-acre ranch that your family has owned and operated for three generations. What are some of the most significant changes that you helped to implement during your time on the ranch? What are some of the aspects that have remained the same (or nearly the same) throughout three generations?

Transitions between generations are tricky. I resisted change for my first few years managing the ranch. At the time, I concentrated on keeping the business going the way my parents had run it, and in so doing I hoped to show respect for the way things had been done.

A good amount of my time was spent learning how to share the responsibilities of running the ranch with my brother. In time, we started growing organic wheat for a nearby market, added oilseeds like Canola into the crop rotation, and introduced minimal tillage and no-till practices to reduce soil erosion and carbon emissions. We built up cow numbers and leased irrigated ground 14 miles away to put up hay for feed and to sell to neighbors.

Some of our neighbors knew my grandparents, who started the wheat and cattle ranch back in the 1940s. So the wheat and cows have remained the same. My parents added a lot too. Too much really to mention. But at one time my father, who was a molecular biologist before he moved back to the ranch, had a molecular biology lab in the corner of the shop. So lots of change and lots of tradition are constants over time.

What was it about the Hudson Valley Farm Hub that made it compelling for you to relocate from eastern Washington? Which parts of their mission, plans for the future, and lists of achievements did you feel aligned best with your own experiences and goals?

My wife grew up in New York state, and we were looking to move across the country to get closer to family. I was drawn by the large-scale aspect of the Farm Hub and what I felt was the blend between agriculture, ecology, education, and experimentation.

I’ve spent a lot time in academia and I’ve spent a lot of time farming. This felt like a great fit. I like the feeling of being out in a field. In a large field the edges fall away, and you’re just out in the middle, with the blue sky and clouds above, perhaps trying to seed your way back home at the end of a long day.

As field crops production manager, you will be working with aspiring farmers. What is one skill, piece of knowledge, or practice that you hope all trainees will gain from you specifically during their time in the program?

I hope to encourage all aspiring farmers to work towards land ownership. Farming experience at the Farm Hub or elsewhere is incredibly valuable. But farming for yourself on land has a built-in ethos and relationship to the environment. You can relate to yourself, your family, and your environment in the past, present, and future in a way that is simple and meaningful and generative all at once.

Ecological stewardship is an important element of your role at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub. Can you share your approach to stewardship and what sorts of experiences and/or formal learning have informed that?

I’m used to interacting with the landscape on a farm; with the crop ground and the native pasture, the different grass species, wildflowers, birds, the tipping of the seasons, the migration of the Sandhill cranes, the first sound of the frogs in the spring after a long winter. All of this gets in your bones over the years.  The experience of living on a farm is really having all of these ecological relationships and memories overlap into a sense of home.

Finally, what is your favorite vegetable?

Sweet corn. Because corn-on-the-cob is delicious, and when I was very young that was the easiest vegetable to weed in my mother’s garden. I can still remember being down on my hands and knees, grabbing rogue lamb’s quarters by the fistful, and accidentally pulling a corn plant out of the ground.