Beyond Organic Farming
Originally Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
This is a journey into farming. And who better to take it with than Andy Szymanowicz. He’s a real star. I call him my starmer. He feeds my family. He’s fabulously fun. He’s passionate about his business and impacting our community by growing organic food that we feel honored to eat. Pick, wash, box, sell is the drill during harvest season. Long hours under the sun are glorious with a bountiful growing season — a gift despite the drought this summer.
Andy is the proprietor of Sol Flower Farm, newly locating to The Watershed Center in Millerton from Herondale Farm in Ancram. The retreat center will be complete with educational workshops in agriculture that will invite the community to meet their farmer and use the fields as a classroom. The new farm allows Andy to increase his CSA memberships, maintain a production farm and continue to sell at Millbrook Farmers Market, local restaurants, distribute CSA shares to Brooklyn, Queens and Garden City, New York as well as design the most coveted organic flowerscapes for weddings and events. What’s not to love?
Vegetable farming comes in stages, “Honeymoon, storming, performing and norming,” Andy explains with an all-too-knowing tone. Only five years into farming his own land he is not yet reaching a “cruising altitude” having never worked on a farm until he reached 19 years of age. At that time, he told me, he “started to learn about farming and since then it was my calling.”
Farmer Andy works all summer long from May to November planting early in March — hopefully — with a crew that is so friendly it’s like visiting family friends. When you pick up your weekly CSA or shop the Herondale Farm Market for Sol Flower organic vegetables and honest flowers you will meet all of the characters on the farm. There’s Trevor Roush, who found his way to the farm by word of mouth and is known as Tron, Mr. Fix-it or the Tractor Man. Trevor says, “I fix the things I break.”
Betsy McCall is the CSA coordinator for members and the farm’s relationship with JustFood.org. She is filled with joy and laughter and manages the Millerton Farmers Market wearing her other hat. She came on board because of Andy’s stellar reputation and excellent growing skills. She thought, “I need to work with Andy.”
Colin Ruggiero also started farming at 19 years of age, this year at Sol Flower Farm, but was a risk to hire. He had zero farm experience but after showing his dedication by volunteering on farms last year during Hurricane Irene and riding his bike one hour each way to work — he quickly found his passion in farming and wasn’t allowed to leave his summer job.
Meghan McCann is the mother hen and keeps Sol Flower functioning and farmers in line! As office manager, Meghan nurtures the entire crew, which in a growing business that is weather dependent makes her a key player.
Last week Andy invited me to the harvest crew’s lunch held at a nearby barn every Friday where everyone shares a moment, a laugh and a bite enjoying a homemade lunch with food they grow and made with love by Emily. “I love our Friday lunches,” Andy told me sweetly. It was fun to hear the day’s events from this year’s hard work and early morning risers ready to eat!
I got some advice for new farmers — make friends with your neighbors because people in your community can help you out. I learned you have to try everything while farming to find out what works, mostly meaning yield and sales. This farm emanates entrepreneurial spirit; it is certainly not without challenges!
Sol Flower Farm’s 130 CSA share members continue to share their good experiences with others, which helped Andy grow his business. As an adventurous American agriculturist there were many grounding events. From Farm + Wilderness located in Plymouth, Vermont where he started and “came out” to Santa Cruz and Occidental California where he launched the original Sol Food — Andy was inspired by his work at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center to find his path to the new farm opening in 2013 in Millerton.
If we all take time to be aware and educated about where our food comes from, find out who makes, grows or raises it, we can be conscious of where we spend our food dollars to stimulate viable livelihoods in agriculture. Our community becomes our supermarket and we return to the way life should be — honest eating, responsible community members and support new farmers now and the next generation alike.
Farming 30 acres from the current six acres Andy tills will surely be a learning curve but he welcomes the community to get involved. It takes a village … Meet Andy Szymanowicz. Be a customer, join his CSA and you will love him as much as I do! FarmOn!
Copyright © 2012 Columbia-Greene Media