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News & Notes

News from Glynwood


There has never been a better time to celebrate NY cider during Cider Week! Directly tied to New York’s agricultural cash crop of apples, cider in New York has seen an unprecedented growth explosion of over 450% in the past ten years and now has a $1.7 billion total economic impact to the NY state economy. With over 120 producers making over 5 million gallons of cider every year, New York continues to lead the country in its number of cider producers.

It’s that time of year again! Yes, breeding season. Every fall, the livestock team gears up to breed our cattle and sheep. While we have a ram to naturally service our ewes, this season we have decided to use artificial insemination to breed our cows. 

Artificial insemination (AI) is the process of breeding cattle using frozen semen. We decided to use AI as our primary breeding method this season because it gives us more flexibility and control over the herd’s genetic makeup. Through AI, we will be able to introduce increased genetic diversity into next season’s calf crop without having to keep multiple bulls on the farm.

For me, the fall equinox on a working farm is laden with the ebbs and flows of reflection, melancholy, envisioning and joy. It is a suspended moment of balance to revel in what the farm is and might be. Here, at Glynwood, my mind and body are very much fixed on the land itself and how the people, livestock and wildlife are entwined. 

The summer provided far from “normal” weather patterns, though weather extremes are becoming more typical due to the climate crisis. Tropical systems Henri and Ida did not cause much damage on most of Glynwood’s farm, but they did disrupt the schedule of fieldwork for Middle Field. This pasture, more so than others at Glynwood, stays saturated long after rain events. The dominant soil type, Paxton, is classified as well-drained, but water does tend to perch on the densic substrata of this soil. Middle Field also has pockets of fairly severe compaction which we will address with keylining or master-keying across the farm in future seasons. Given the wet soil conditions at the end of August continuing into the first two weeks of September, it was only last week that I felt comfortable, still with trepidation, about putting the tractor and disk harrow on the field to terminate the warm season annual planting. My concern was that I would risk doing more damage than good by adding to the compaction issues. 

Though fall is here, the growing season is far from over! With the last tomatoes and the first of the winter storage crops coming in, this is the time of year when it’s easy to make every meal from fresh, local produce and it’s been great to see our community coming out to shop at the Glynwood Farm Store to pick up our produce, meat and other local goods to help them do exactly that. If you have not yet come to the Farm Store this season, please dostop by in the coming weeks as the last tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, winter squash, potatoes, onions, garlic and vibrant greens come in from the fields. 

This summer, we were lucky enough to exchange farm visits and apprentice learning opportunities with DIG Acres, a farm operation managed by fast casual restaurant chain DIG Inn and located at the Chester Ag Center. DIG Acres has long been a farmer training partner of ours; several of Glynwood’s Farm Business Incubator participants have simultaneously participated in DIG’s Incubator program (which includes farmland and shared equipment), and farm manager Larry Tse has been a Mid Hudson CRAFT organizer for several years. However, this was the first year in which we have coordinated a complementary apprentice exchange. We were delighted with the results. 

For as long as humans have existed, we have been using plants to heal ourselves. What began as an instinctive search for medicines to relieve our ailments and diseases became numerous traditional systems of medicine developed by people over millennia. In many places around the world, herbal medicine is still the norm—for example up to 80% of people on the African continent use traditional herbal medicine as their primary health care. However, in the U.S., herbalism falls under the umbrella of “alternative” or “complementary” medicine, and we have been taught to be both skeptical of its efficacy and fearful of its power.

We’re in the height of the growing season, and the farmers participating in Glynwood’s Food Sovereignty Fund are providing a bounty of fresh, delicious, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods to their community based partners. From the northern end of Columbia County to the Bronx, these community partners are distributing the food at no cost to folks who are facing food insecurity. While there is still a lot of growing and harvesting left to go this season, we wanted to provide a snapshot of the impact this innovative program has had so far.

Last month I introduced you to the decision to “renovate” the seven-acre Middle Field pasture here at Glynwood, and to the methods we are using to implement this overall improvement. We terminated the existing perennial stand of grasses, legumes, and forbs via moldboard plow and disk harrow in May and seeded to a warm-season annual plant mix in mid-June. This was the first step in a process to remove unwanted species like Russian knapweed and yellow nutsedge, and to ultimately replace the existing stand with more desirable perennial pasture species for our ruminants.

Glynwood has been the host of many weddings, photoshoots and social gatherings over the years. From the bucolic rolling hills of the farm to the lakefront boathouse, our events experience the magic that this land has to offer. However, the wedding and event industry is one that is not always kind on the land, producing waste, high impact and carbon emissions as a result of its efforts.

As you might assume, summer is a busy time on the farm. Long days of hard work, hot weather...and wonderful bounty. This growing season has been tough; we started out hot and dry, needing to irrigate as early as May, and then it seemingly never stopped raining in July, emboldening the weeds to grow like...well, like weeds. Fortunately August has gifted us with some cooler temperatures, more stable weather patterns, and a bounty of amazing produce for the CSA, the Farm Store, and our food donations to local food relief agencies.

At the end of June, Mid Hudson Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) participants met at Ever-Growing Family Farm in Ulster Park for a community work day. For most CRAFT participants, this was their first time laying eyes on a rice paddy anywhere—let alone in the Hudson Valley. They were struck by the beauty of the paddies speckling the landscape and impressed by the productive land use in what would otherwise be unsuitable for agricultural purposes.

We couldn’t be more pleased to announce that Laura Lengnick will be joining Glynwood as Director of Agriculture in September. Laura will work with the entire Glynwood team to ensure that Glynwood’s farm and farmer training efforts reflect best practices in climate-smart agriculture and strengthen Glynwood’s contribution to national efforts to re-regionalize the U.S. food system as a community resilience strategy.  

Today, we view the work of building the local grains system as ever more urgent as we recognize the impact that agriculture can have on climate change adaptation, the need to move towards plant-based diets, and to work with and support those growers who are committed to sustainable and regenerative farming practices. Staple crops are uniquely poised to diversify the crop rotations on regional farms and enrich our soils, all while adding nutrient-dense ingredients into our diets. The shockwaves of COVID have only further instilled that strengthening regional food systems is our pathway to resilience. We now know we can do it if we are committed to a reciprocal economy.

Before this grazing season got underway, we decided Middle Field needed an intervention. But how to transition it to the plant community we desire—a diverse mix of cool season perennial grasses, legumes, and forbs? With ample time and very intensive grazing under ideal animal stocking and mechanical management, we could likely get there without tillage. We could also jump start the succession with a series of intense disturbances: termination tillage and short-term successive plantings. 

This past spring, the New York Cider Association participated in a six-seminar social justice series with Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, a leader in equity and diversity in the craft beverage industry. The goal was to identify actionable goals that individual cider makers, apple growers, and the Association more broadly can take to increase diversity, equity and justice in their organizational makeup and audience alike.

Thanks to many champions of regional agriculture, including NOFA-NY, American Farmland Trust, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Michelle Hinchey, the Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act (A5386/S4722) recently passed the New York State Assembly and Senate and is on its way to Governor Cuomo.

On April 24th, a small group came together to plant 160 bareroot seedlings of 8 woody shrub and tree species into a temporary nursery space at Glynwood. They will reside here for a year, a relatively long heel-in stop-over, before being dispersed to permanent locations around Glynwood and at the proposed new home of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison. The trees and shrubs—eastern white pine, white spruce, pagoda (alternate leaf) dogwood, river birch, serviceberry, sweetbay magnolia, witch hazel, and ninebark—were acquired through Putnam County Soil and Water District’s Annual Plant Sale. All but the white spruce is within native range. They are largely adaptable species, being able to grow well, if not thrive, in varied conditions. It was a fun and energizing morning to talk and think about these plants and where they are headed.

Gleaning, the process of harvesting crops left over from a farmer’s harvest on a field, has roots that far pre-date modern agriculture, yet the practice remains a relevant and useful way to gather the crops that the farmer doesn’t have time to harvest, or that are “seconds” quality so that this food can nourish people. “Seconds” quality is generally used to describe food (usually vegetables) that is perfectly good to eat, but that doesn’t have the picture-perfect looks that they need to move through a farm store, or to be sold wholesale to a grocery store.

Every season, branches of CRAFT—The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training—across the northeast (including one in the Mid-Hudson Valley) host in-depth farm tours, allowing farmers in training (whether formal apprentices or crew members) to visit different farm enterprises, develop practical farm skills, and network with other farmers and apprentices.

We are thrilled to welcome June Russell to the Glynwood team as Director of Regional Food Programs, specializing in grains and staples.  In her role at Glynwood, Russell will work with stakeholders to continue to build markets for emerging crops, as well as work to promote production of grains and staples including the adoption of climate adaptation strategies.

Jessica O’Callahan’s experience as a Glynwood apprentice in 2013 was transformative and solidified her long-time desire to work with plants and food. Jessica had been working for a nonprofit dance company before coming to Glynwood, but had previously done some urban farming in NYC and deep-down knew she wanted to be a farmer. When she found out about Glynwood she knew it would be a tremendous experience. She recalls thinking “this is awesome—Glynwood offers housing, pay, education, a chance to experience both vegetable and livestock production, and is amazingly beautiful. I can’t pass this up.”

Every spring, Glynwood welcomes a new cohort of Farm Apprentices on site. Over the course of the growing season, they learn alongside our farm managers in the fields through a series of carefully designed modules, participate in Mid-Hudson CRAFT site visits to regional farms, and continue their learning in the classroom through a series of farmer training workshops designed by Director of Farmer Training Dave Llewellyn and featuring many regional faculty experts. We are excited to introduce you to our three 2021 Vegetable Apprentices: Ashley Markowitz, Addie McCaul, and Andie Mitchell. 

Spring is off to a strong start here on the farm, both inside the greenhouse and outside. The propagation house is full of seedlings being nurtured, the baby chicks have arrived and are nestled snugly under the brooder, and outdoor beds are being flipped to make way for those new plants. Our spring plant sale allows you to purchase some of our own certified organic seedlings yourself, to take home and enjoy all summer long! Having your own garden can be a great supplement to a CSA share, or regular purchases at the farm store. Plants are selling out fast, so keep checking back, or email twessel@glynwood.org with any questions!

As you likely know, the food system in this country has long prioritized extractive production at the expense of health and wellbeing. Too many people are hungry while food is going to waste, and farmers aren’t compensated for thoughtful land stewardship. COVID-19 exposed tremendous vulnerabilities in our food system: farms lost wholesale buyers, there was an exponential increase in food insecurity, and there was a massive shortage of food for hunger relief organizations. Prior to the pandemic and as it stands now, hunger relief and food-access organizations are often dependent on donations from large agribusiness and the corporate food system. The Food Sovereignty Fund arose from a deep-seated belief that together we can create something better for our community. We are thrilled to announce the 17 farms who will be part of the Food Sovereignty Fund in 2021!

For Glynwood’s Farm Business Incubator participants, winter is an essential period of further learning. Every fall, Glynwood organizes a series of Winter Intensives based on the specific needs and interests of the incoming Incubator cohort. From Farm Law to No-Till growing, Marketing to Cover Cropping, these workshops introduce Incubator farmers to critical concepts and experts in each field. Winter Intensives additionally allow Incubator participants to learn from one another by sharing experiences, seeking and offering advice, and simply spending time together. 

Seed and Thistle Apothecary is an educational resource that supports folks to reclaim their ancestral traditions around plant medicine and healing and that centers the voices of Queer, Trans, gender non-conforming, Black and Indigenous communities. Lara Pacheco, who was a Glynwood apprentice in 2009, started Seed and Thistle Apothecary after years of farming and studying plant medicine. 

With spring approaching, the Glynwood family is growing by a few new full-time, farm-focused team members. Working together with Glynwood's Farm Managers, pictured above -- Nicole Scott (Farm Manager, Livestock) and Jarret Nelson (Farm Manager, Vegetable Operation) -- this intrepid bunch will help ready the way for our incoming cohort of apprentices, implement exciting improvements on the farm and help build relationships with our wonderful community of CSA members and farm store customers.

A sure sign of impending spring is when sheep are shorn. Raising and shearing sheep is one of the oldest agricultural practices; humans have been shearing sheep since around 3500 B.C.E. when we began spinning their wool for clothes. Over these thousands of years, sheep have evolved with the tradition of shearing. Today, millions of sheep are shorn each year. Whether or not the wool is harvested for use, sheep need to be shorn to keep them comfortable in the hot summer months, to prevent illness (overgrown wool can harbor parasites), and to prepare ewes for lambing.

Last week, we lost one of our dearest and most important champions: Penny Perkins Wilson. Penny spent a good deal of her childhood at Glynwood when it was her family’s home, and remained an active and incredibly thoughtful Board member since the family transitioned the property to become home to Glynwood, the non-profit organization. 

Here is a cherished memory from my time spent with her.

There’s been a lot of talk about food security, and why not? Because one goal of the food system is, or should be, making sure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious, well-grown food. That of course isn’t the case.

Which is why the term “food sovereignty” deserves more attention. Food sovereignty is the right for people to determine what they grow and what they eat. It supports local farmers and local eating traditions. It supports soil stewardship rather than exploitation. It supports shortened supply chains. Perhaps above all, it supports local needs and local food systems rather than the global cash crop system.

In the spring of 2017, Glynwood orchestrated the donation and planting of 5,000 cider apple trees (25 varieties in total, including the three named above) to 15 orchards across the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes region, and Western New York. The goal of this initiative was to collect information year on year about how different apple varieties traditional to cider production grow and produce in our state. Participating orchards have collected information each spring on tree growth and mortality, and began collecting measurements on fruit production in the fall of 2019. In the fall of 2020, Glynwood launched a third form of data collection and analysis: fermentation trials. 

The long term legacy of Covid-19 for CSA farmers is uncertain. It is possible that the past year has permanently expanded awareness and demand for CSA shares, but it is also possible that once restaurants fully reopen and normalcy returns, farmers will again need to find other outlets for their products.  I do hope one silver lining of the pandemic is more consumers recognizing the freshness, quality, and authentic connection between farmer and eater that CSAs offer, and that CSA farms will continue to thrive and grow. 

“My whole life trajectory would have been very different if I hadn’t apprenticed at Glynwood. It sent me down the path I am on now.” Jesse Voremberg was a Glynwood apprentice in 2017 and since then has delved deeper into many facets of food and farming systems, from whole-animal butchery to farmland access and academia. 

We are honored to announce that The Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming was selected as one of 50 pilot farms across the world for A Greener World’s (AGW) Certified Regenerative pilot program. Glynwood has been certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW since 2013, and we’re excited to build upon this foundation and deepen our relationship with A Greener World. 

The Hudson Valley CSA Coalition will be hosting a virtual CSA Summit on Thursday, February 18. The Summit will be a time to take a collective breath, reconnect, and identify solutions and collaborations to make CSA in our region as successful as possible. Although the Summit is geared towards CSA farmers, we encourage anyone interested to register for the event and spread the word. We look forward to reflecting, learning, and growing together.

Here in the Northeast, cattle and other ruminants are fed hay for about half the year, usually November through April. When we imagine pasture-raised animals, the image that comes to mind is one of cows eating green growing grass. But that is only half the story, for the other six months of the year their diet is primarily dry hay, and the quality and quantity of hay is critical to the health of those animals—impacting everything from their fertility and reproductive health, to pest and disease resistance, to how fast they grow and put on meat. 

The first Glynwood apprentice was Dan Fillius, who came to work and learn on this property in 2008 because he, like so many of us, had been “bit by the gardening bug”. Dan now works for Iowa State Extension teaching farmers about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and also manages an urban farm, Middlebrook Farm, in an “agri-hood” outside of Des Moines, Iowa.

Michelle is the Associate Director of Regional Food Programs. She joined the Glynwood team in late 2020, bringing to this role her enthusiasm for connecting diverse people with varied experiences and expertise to create a more just and resilient food system in the Hudson Valley.

There are so many reasons why soil carbon matters, and mitigating climate change is only one piece of that. Soil organic carbon (SOC) delivers nutrients to plants, including our food crops, and also sustains the microorganisms that cycle those nutrients in the soil. You can think of SOC as the glue that keeps soil particles together. Measuring soil carbon is challenging; the most accurate current methods are expensive and time-consuming. Glynwood just received a reflectometer, a tool to measure the specific light that comes off of our soil and indicates levels of soil carbon.

“I formed a deep connection to the land and animals during my time at Glynwood. The animals were really like teachers to me in understanding how to care for livestock in humane ways and how to manage pasture in sustainable ways. I learned a lot about listening to the animals and the land and also about trusting my own instincts as a farmer.” Allie Comet apprenticed at Glynwood during the 2011 season, and stayed on as the Assistant Livestock manager in 2012.

This month, we’re excited to introduce you to our newest cohort of Incubator farms: Big Dream Farm, Choy Division, Ever Growing Family Farm, and Grassroots Farm. These farms will attend a series of Winter Intensives in 2021, and will benefit from comprehensive technical assistance throughout the 2021 growing season and beyond.

The Glynwood Glean Team consisted of both Glynwood staff and community volunteers. From mid-summer thru November, this team showed up to glean vegetables in the mud, hail, and heat. Volunteers arrived at Glynwood in the early morning and in the late afternoon, lugging heavy bins of squash and bags of bok choy to the cooler. Read more to find out how the Glean Team came to be, and what it accomplished in a few short months.

Looking to the long term needs of our region, this past season’s efforts inspired the development of the Food Sovereignty Fund. This project strives to increase regional food sovereignty while protecting the bottom line of small, regeneratively managed farms, particularly those led by people from historically marginalized backgrounds. It was the COVID-19 pandemic that sparked this program; however, the disparities in access to nutrient-dense, locally grown food—as well as the inequities that disadvantage farmers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or women—are long-standing and systemic in nature. To that end, the Food Sovereignty Fund is eager to continue and expand this line of work.

The difficult conversations about racism and social justice that the murder of George Flloyd brought to the national forefront this summer are continuing within New York’s cider community and sparking action. Over the past decade, Glynwood has advocated for the values of agricultural stewardship and craftsmanship that define New York cider. In 2020, advancing the values of the cider industry must include working towards social justice in the sector.

This longer post takes a deep dive into protecting farms and farmland in the Hudson River Valley. The character of the Hudson Valley is so unique precisely because of this diverse landscape that brings together forests, small cities and towns with proximity to a large urban center, with agriculture that ranges from mixed vegetable production to orchards and livestock. Supporting agriculture protects and promotes vibrant rural communities and helps maintain a regional identity for the Hudson Valley.

Did you know that the vast majority of Glynwood’s revenue comes from individuals? These are individuals who care about our work and our mission. These individuals give $25, $100, $5,000, or any amount that is meaningful to them. Without this support, we would not be able to train farmers, provide mentorship through our business incubator program, donate food to local pantries, or create meaningful coalitions throughout the region. 

Our partners at The Hudson Valley Farm Hub offered a tractor workshop specifically for women. The Farm Hub partnered with local tractor mechanic Sarah Groat to offer this training. Sarah Groat, who is based in Kingston NY, maintains equipment for several Hudson Valley farms and is available for urgent repairs on an as needed basis. With her combined experience in tractor operation, maintenance, and repair, she was the perfect person to teach a tractor workshop for women. 

Chef Alicia Walter details her inspirations for the October Farm to Home Dinner box, as well as her goals as Culinary Director at Harlem Valley Homestead in Wingdale, NY.