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Good Food Starts with Responsible and Sustainable Farming

As somebody who works behind the scenes of food certification, my typical day consists of interacting with our friends via social media, working with the website and trying to figure out how our coffee machine works. But some days, I’m lucky enough to experience something that not many New-Yorkers are privy to – and last Friday was one of those days.

Our Culinary Nutritionist Andrea Canada, Dietetic Intern Shirley Brouwers and I took ourselves out of the office to visit some sustainable, organic and biodynamic farms in upstate New York. First on the visiting list was Hemlock Hill, a family owned and operated farm in Westchester.

Free range chickens at Hemlock Hill Farm

All of the beef, chicken, lamb, geese and goats here are pasture-raised, which is a stark contrast to the confined and bustling streets of NYC.  Hemlock Hill also raises all of its animals hormone and antibiotic free, which is something encouraged by SPE’s Philosophy of Ingredients.

Hemlock Hill's pastures

Hemlock Hill has its own farm store, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area to pick up some locally grown fruit, meat and veggies.

Our next visit took us to Millbrook, NY, to Lightning Tree Farm. Lightning Tree is a certified organic grain farm (USDA approved and NOFA-NY Certified), producing separate grains for both animal and human consumption.

Grain farming at Lightning Tree Farm

We were shown around the farm by Alton Earnhart, a farmer passionate about growing both organically and sustainably. Alton’s knowledge of historical farming practices and dedication to farming organically is admirable – he also serves up home-grown organic oatmeal to his family for breakfast.

Growing wheat at Lightning Tree Farm

Lightning Tree farm is a shining example of how a grain farm should operate. Its pesticide-free and organic practices produce excellent results. A lot of Alton’s customers drive a long way to buy his products, and with good reason.

Our final visit of the day was to Hawthorne Valley Farm, a 400-acre biodynamic farm in Columbia County, NY. The farm produces organic dairy products, fresh vegetables, hosts its own organic bakery and even has its own sauerkraut cellar.

Pastures at Hawthorne Valley Farm

What first struck me about this farm was the space dedicated to the dairy cows. The cows are outside whenever possible, feeding on the natural grass grown inside a huge pasture. The dairy operation at Hawthorne Valley produces a multitude of cheeses, raw milk and yogurts made on-site.

The farm is biodynamic, meaning that it’s self-sustainable. The fertilizer for the produce comes from the cows themselves, so it’s a guaranteed organic approach.

Hawthorne Valley welcomes visitors and offers full tours, tasting sessions and even summer camps for kids. If you’re looking for an education on biodynamic farming and want to see how real food starts out, Hawthorne Valley Farm is a true experience, run by a dedicated staff who are trying to make a genuine difference.

Hawthorne Valley Farm

If you’re in the area or are looking for something different to do this weekend, arrange for a tour of an organic and sustainable farming operation. I guarantee it’s an education that you won’t find elsewhere.

farming, ingredients, sustainability, biodynamic, organic, images


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