Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture : Pocantico Hills, NY Farm Tour

After spending two days at the Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, NY this past April, I was able to head south to Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. For most young farmers—especially those of the “organic,” “locavore,” and “sustainable” persuasion—a trip to Stone Barns Center is kind of like a trip to Disneyworld is for a child, filled with inspiring wonder and magic, a place you dream about not only visiting but also experiencing.

Stone Barns Center is a walking exhibit of how the entire farm-to-table concept can work in real life. Situated in the Hudson Valley just north of New York City, the center farms six acres of vegetables plus over 22,000 square feet of four-season greenhouse space. A number of animals also contribute to Stone Barns’ ecosystem, with cattle, pigs, sheep, bees and chickens all represented. Everything grown and raised at Stone Barns Center is used in their very own restaurant and cafe or sold at local markets. It truly is a triumphant demonstration in how a farm focused on growing and using local, can be a successful business enterprise.

But above all, Stone Barns Center is about education and their success at drawing families and individuals out of their city dwellings to experience the “great outdoors” was obvious the day I visited. In a very honest, down-to-earth way, Stone Barns Center is not unlike many of the farm education “centers” available to families across the country. I was reminded of how Cosley Zoo in my hometown of Wheaton, IL provides the same educational opportunities to Chicago suburban families through programs like “Morning Chores” where kids can see what its like to care for and feed farm animals. Just 26 miles from me and in downtown Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo exhibit allows kids to “experience hands-on lessons on the origins of food.” Take an entirely different demographic in the farm-state of Ohio, and there is Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs where families can spend a day feeding goats, petting baby calves and learning how milk turns into ice cream. All of these are examples of the ongoing efforts to educate the public about agriculture, each catering to their unique, local audience.

stone_barns_center_state_of_the_art_greenhouse_plant_farm_photography

Stone Barns Center has over 22,000 square feet of greenhouse space that allow for four-season growing. The greenhouses use minimal heating, even in the coldest of winter months.

baby_seeds_in_tray_stone_barns_center_for_agricultureblue_watering_can_stone_barns_center_new_york_agriculture

No pesticides, herbicides or chemical additives are introduced to the soil at Stone Barns Center. Instead, the farmers rely on compost created created from Stone Barns’ natural agriculture waste products and other natural elements like grass clippings and leaves.

claytonia_and_red_leaf_lettuce_grown_in_greenhouse_stone_barns_center
Over 200 varieties of produce are grown year-round at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. Click here to read about Claytonia, a plant often eaten raw in salads.

green_lettuce_stone_barns_center_new_york_city_greenhouserows_of_lettuce_new_york_stone_barnsstone_barns_center_greenhouse_seedlingslettuce_patches_stone_barns_center_for_agriculture_new_york_photographygreenhouse_lettuce_production_at_stone_barns_center_for_agriculture_nytray_of_seedlings_stone_barns_center_ny_farm_photographerpotted_plants_stone_barns_center_greenhouse_agriculture_photospotted_seedlings_stone_barns_center_new_york_photographergreenhouse_structures_stone_barns_center_for_agriculture_pocantico_hills_ny

The greenhouse roof can be raised and lowered to make maximum use of the the sun and wind.

pig_pen_hoop_house_barn_stone_barns_center_farm_animal_photographerpigs_at_stone_barns_center_new_york_farm_photographysheep_at_stone_barns_center_blue_hill_new_york_lambs_photographystella_great_pyrenees_stone_barns_center_sheep_lambs_spring_photography

Stella, a Great Pyrenees, keeps guard over the sheep.

hoop_houses_stone_barns_center_pigs_piglets_farm_photographer

You won’t see any traditional “red barns” at Stone Barns Center. Instead, these modern hoop buildings house the various types livestock.

stone_barns_center_rockefeller_agriculture_education_farm_photographer_ny
The actual “stone” at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture where both the restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the cafe are located as well as the administrative offices and classroom/event space.

The Furry and Feathered Faces at Kilpatrick Family Farm

While growing and selling vegetables is the flagship business at Kilpatrick Family Farm (where I visited in mid-April), the farm is not without its share of furry and feathered—and fun to photograph—faces.

this beautiful life blog inside_animal_hoop_house_backyard_chickens_cow_farm_photography

WATCHDOGS
A good watchdog is essential at any farm with livestock. Prior to getting two Maremma Sheepdog‘s to watch over their brood of chickens, the Kilpatricks lost over 20 chickens to predators in one month. These two cuties have knocked recent losses down to zero. Not a bad track record for a dog with a such a mild name like Carrots, eh? (Did You Know: It’s the scent of the dog—not the barking—that warns predators to stay at bay!)

this beautiful life sarha parisi maremma_sheepdog_backyard_chickens_kilpatrick_family_farm_barnyard_animalsthis beautiful life sarah parisi chickens_dogs_maremma_farm_photography_new_york_middle_granvillethis beautiful life sarah parisi maremma_sheepdog_watching_chicens_middle_granville_nythis beautiful life sarah parisi farm_dogs_watching_over_chickens

THE MILK COW
The Kilpatricks keep one milk cow whose milk they keep for personal use. Read an earlier post to hear about my own experience hand-milking a cow.

this beautiful life sarah parisi milking_cow_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york

GOATS
In addition to cows, goats provides a great source of milk or meat. Even more, they offer a great deal of comedic relief in the barnyard. The Kilpatricks had just acquired two dwarf Nigerian kids at the time of my visit.

this beautiful life sarah parisi baby_kid_nubian_goat_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york_photographythis beautiful life sarah parisi child_feeding_baby_goat_milk_kilpatrick_family_farms_new_york_photographersarah parisi baby_kid_nubian_goat_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york_photography this beautiful life

CHICKENS AND DUCKS

The Kilpatricks keep a good number of chickens on hand and sell eggs at local farmers markets and grocers. Click here to read an earlier post to learn more about chickens. Only two ducks—one male and one female—share space with the chickens. I think they served as “barn parents,” or something like that.

chickens_and_ducks_farm_photography_middle_grandville_ny this beautiful life sarah parisi
this beautiful life sarah parisi chickens_in_the_hen_house_kilpatrick_family_farm_photographykilpatrick_family_farm_animals_ducks_in_barn_photography this beautiful life sarah parisi

BARNYARD CATS
It goes without saying that cats are an essential part of any working farm, keeping the mice population firmly in check. And as much of a dog person that I am, these cats were of the hospitable sort.

this beautiful life sarah parisi black_white_fine_art_cat_pet_portrait_photography_middle_granville_nycat_photography_night_images_kilpatrick_family_farm sarah parisi this beautiful lifeyellow_tabby_cat_with_stripes_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york this beautiful life sarah parisiyellow_tabby_cat_with_stripes_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york this beautiful life sarah parisiyellow_tabby_cat_with_stripes_kilpatrick_family_farm_new_york this beautiful life sarah parisi

THE FAMILY DOG
The Kilpatricks keep two Border Collies as family pets—a mother and her pup. From what I could tell, Gracie (pictured below) was the hardest working animal at the farm, constantly watching out for opportunities to participate in the day’s activities. Not to be unfairly compensated for their hard work, both dogs enjoy special privileges—like warm, indoor beds and, of course, plenty of toys.

australian_shepherd_dog_with_ball_pet_portrait_photographer_wheaton_il this beautiful life sarah parisi