Stone Barns: Center for Food and Agriculture

Stepping on the farm of Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills upstate New York is first and foremost, quite beautiful. The Center for Food and Agriculture is home to the most avant-garde methods of growing food and raising animals. It is avant-garde ironically, because the methods actually take from ancient conceptions of sustaining a whole ecosystem. Throughout the 60-acres of working land there are a variety of agricultural principles applied but as Evan Thaller-Null, an intern in the farm explained, it is the idea of biodynamics that is most present in the farm’s consciousness. Biodynamics (a term coined from Rudolf Steiner’s ideas) tries to treat the farm as a self containing organism so that in a closed loop, everything is supported by each other and the health of each organism affects and is dependent on the health of everything else. Much attention is payed to seasonal and environmental factors in growing the food. This closed system allows for food to be grown organically, pesticide and hormone free.

The farm has made it its mission to be a center for education catering for young, novice and older more experienced people who wish to learn about the farm’s methods. Stone barns is a leader in new techniques and methods and people come by constantly to learn about it.

The pigs on the barn will come charge at you and try and eat your hand

The farm is only five years old, it emerged from Peggy Rockefeller’s desire to invigorate an area that had become an agricultural desert. The land used to be a dairy farm in the early 1900’s, but the high taxes on property and land had been driving out food production. Thanks to the endowment from the Rockefeller’s big bank account, the non-profit, Stone Barns is emerging as a center for agriculture and education situated only 30 miles from Manhattan. It also survives on volunteer help from students who wish to learn invaluable lessons. “I’ve gotten the chance to work with the most knowledgeable mentor in the field, and that is not easy to come by in agriculture,” said Evan about his internship in the farm.

There is a restaurant, Blue Hill located on the property that serves food from the farm at relatively expensive prices. I left the farm with a feeling of hope, but also with a number of  questions about this being a model or an ideal for our agriculturally troubled society.

Although the barn has taken the mission of spreading awareness about food and sustainable agriculture, it caters its food to a very specific population, mainly the higher class who can pay the price of the expensive food. If we are employing the principle of biodynamics say, to the entire country, (maybe even the world) wouldn’t it be necessary to spread access to healthy foods to everyone? Is it a ludicrous idea? I think not, and although it can seem like an impossible task, too costly, too difficult, if someone doesn’t begin with an idea of inclusiveness, then all attempts to ameliorate the problems in society will remain in the hands of a few–a secret to the rest of the population.

The greenhouse sustains fresh greens and roots all year round. These are some of the sweetest carrots I have ever encountered in my life

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One Response to “Stone Barns: Center for Food and Agriculture”

  1. You bring up one very sad contradiction of the last so called green revolution: the development of farming techniques that allowed massive food production, at the same time created a horrible environmental disaster, and now a public health issue with the chemicals and pesticides that are affecting or health around the world. Can we develop techiques to produce food in ways that are healthy for us and the world, and still can offer relief to hunger around the world? That is the single most important question students should be dealing with in agronomy and chemistry schools…sadly, they seem to be learning just the same old things….

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