Engaging the Community
At the end of April, more than 125 community members joined us on the SUNY Ulster campus for an evening presentation and panel discussion on the Local Economies Project (LEP) and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.
Brooke Pickering-Cole, Manager of Community Relations at LEP, opened the presentation with a warm welcome before introducing Bob Dandrew, LEP’s Director. Bob spoke about LEP’s work in the Hudson Valley food system and a vision for “the next economy, the new economy.”
“The economy we have now,” he said, “is not working for us. We see this at home, we see this at local businesses. We feel strongly there is something new waiting for us in the future if we can see it, grasp it, and work together collaboratively to make that happen.”
“Our goal,” he added, “is to build a new economy around the Hudson Valley food system – one that promotes people and planet along with profits.” Bob went on to highlight several of LEP’s funding efforts, including the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley’s program for support of food pantries and under-served communities, as well as Farm to Institution New York State, which brings local produce to colleges in the Hudson Valley.
Anu Rangarajan, Director of the Farm Hub, gave an overview of the Farm Hub’s vision for a more resilient agriculture in the Hudson Valley.
“There is nothing like this hub in the nation,” Anu said, “based on the size, the soils, the infrastructure, and the surrounding support and interest in local food systems.”
2015 will be the Farm Hub’s second season. Portions of the farm are transitioning to organic growing methods, other areas have been set aside for ecological stewardship. Grain trials last year included an heirloom corn variety called “Bloody Butcher,” and small test plots of wheat, barley, and rye. This year the most successful varieties of wheat and barley are being planted on a larger scale, and there will be new tests of winter and spring grains.
Plans for the coming year also include launching our farmer training program, opening our Farm Stand in mid-June, and several agricultural research projects. Most importantly for those who loved them last year, the sunflowers will be back again this season!
The final presenters were John Gill and Jean-Paul Courtens, Associate Directors of the Farm Hub. John spoke about growing up on the farm that is now the Farm Hub and how relieved he is that the land his family farmed for three generations will remain in agriculture.
“We had no succession plan, family members didn’t want the farm, so we were the last of the line,” he said. “My dad and I really stressed about what was going to happen to this beautiful piece of property that we loved so much… It is great that this place will forever be farm. That was our biggest concern.”
A lively Q&A session followed with discussion around collaboration with institutions of higher learning, metrics for measuring success, the question of one day having a livestock enterprise on the Farm Hub, and the challenges of land access for farmers.
The April 30th event was made possible through the support of the staff at SUNY Ulster, and we are grateful for their warm welcome.