2014-07-30 NY Daily News



Hudson Valley's growing appeal in agriculture, fresh food & real estate

On a Saturday morning in June,
Tessa Edick drove 6 miles from
Copake Lake to Herondale/
Sol Flower Farm to pick up
her weekly produce. On the
way back to her wood-cabin home, she
stopped at Pigasso Farms to buy a freerange
chicken, eggs laid that morning, a
fl ank steak and farm-made sausage.

The bill came to $90. Edick fed seven
people on a table fi lled with votive candles,
sunfl owers and food as fresh and
antibiotic-free as humanly possible.

The vivacious culinary consultant
has been dining like this every weekend
for the better part of a decade. Shuttling
two hours between New York City and
Hudson Valley, the foodie entrepreneur
who founded Sauces n’ Love has helped
chefs become superstars by packaging
and marketing their recipes.

Focusing on her own backyard, Edick
recently created a showcase for what
she believes to be the most important
part in today’s food chain — the farmer

“Farming is sexy and cool,” she says,
emphatically. “You have to know your
farmer and where your food comes from.
It’s time to opt out of processed food
and celebrate the table and what’s on it
as a center of pleasure. We also have to
ensure succession happens, so that children
of farmers take over their farms.
First, we celebrated food, then the chef,
but no one was cheerleading the farmer.
The farmer is the secret ingredient.”

On July 30, Edick’s company
CulinaryPartnership.com will launch
the Friends of the Farmer Hudson Valley
Food Lovers Festival at Copake
Country Club. The all-day fair highlights
farmers, restaurants and the resurgence
of Hudson Valley as a top agriculture
draw. It will raise money for a scholarship
for high school students to continue
studies in agricultural sciences.

“Hudson Valley is primed to become
the Napa Valley of the East Coast,” says
Edick, who coined the phrase “Farm
On” to promote succession for future
generations of farming families.

Ironically, as farming and land preservation
increases in popularity, so has
the real estate market. Columbia County
has become one of the nation’s hottest
second-home markets with farms, cottages,
lake houses and land selling at
a faster clip than anyplace in the state.
Protecting agricultural businesses and fending off developers is a big reason the area has thrived.

In addition, Columbia County has become
a study for how a solid farming system
with community-based activist backing
can lead to a successful local farm,
second-home and tourist-based economy.

In addition, Columbia County has become
a study for how a solid farming system
with community-based activist backing
can lead to a successful local farm,
second-home and tourist-based economy.

At the same time, the 25-year-old Columbia
Land Conservancy (CLC) provides
tax easements and helps farmers make
fi nancial deals with the state; in return,
the land stays farm-friendly and housingdevelopment
free. The CLC has protected
more than 22,000 acres from development,
something that has plagued other counties
and the rest of America.

The suburban landuse
pattern in this
country has proven
to be completely
says Andy Turner, executive
director of the Cornell Cooperative
Extension, a statewide
county-based group bringing
scientifi c research to improve
farming conditions. “Farm
land has turned into strip malls, and foreclosures
happened more in areas overrun
with development. Once you lose big parcels
of land, you can’t get them back.

What separates Columbia County is
the proximity to markets and tremendous
community support from the farmers.
One big supporter is Todd Erling. Erling 
and his wife own Willow Springs Farm,
a small property that breeds pastureraised
Berkshire pigs, free range chickens
and hops that Erling sells to Chatham
Brewing, a nearby beer maker. A trained
architect who built affordable housing in
the town of Hudson, Erling founded the
Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development
Corp.(HVADC), a group dedicated
to getting farmers products to market and
providing economic development services
to agriculture.

“We did a study that found this area
lacked a regional farming plan, had no
system to bring technical assistance to
the farmer and no direct relationship with
banks for dedicated capital,” says Erling.
“Farmers are savvy businesspeople now.
Local food was and is again a way of life.
You rely on your farmer for breakfast,
lunch and dinner. We want people to vote
with their fork to protect and support
their farmers.”

As a real estate strategy, protecting
farms from development has helped the
local housing market. According to local
brokers, the interest in area farms is up
in the past 12 months. Also, buyers are
fl ocking to the rural lands of Columbia
County versus the more crowded areas in
Orange County or expensive Hamptons.

“The number of people interested in
buying homes on big farmland and little
farmland is up,” says Heather Croner, a
38-year local broker who owns Heather
Croner Real Estate Sotheby’s International
Realty. “Even if they can have
small plots of land, they want to know
about the soil and if they can grow their
own food there.”

In the end, it’s the farmer and the
consumer of the food who benefi t from
Columbia County’s agrarian resurgence.
On any weekend, most farms are open for
visitors, with on-site farm shops selling
produce grown and meats cut from animals
raised on each property. Copake’s
Pigasso Farms, run by Robert Kitchen
and wife Heather, sells more than 1,200
fresh eggs per week from its farm store, at
farmer markets and to local restaurants.
They breed top Heritage pigs.

At Tollgate Farm, Jim and Karen Davenport
make some of the highest-rated
milk in the United Sates from Holstein
cows on farmland they lease.

“I try to make milk that I would be
proud to serve my family,” says Jim Davenport.
“You have to feed these cows the
best you can and keep them clean. People
love milk, but so do bacteria, and the
cleaner you keep the cows, the farther
away bacteria stays.”

Jerry Peele owns Herondale Farm, a
250-acre-plus farm where he raises grassfed
and fi nished British White cattle
whose lineage dates to Roman times. He
also raises chickens and lamb. A former
investment banker, Peele grew up in a
farming community near Gloucester,
England. His livestock, 100 percent hormone
free, is sold by butchers and restaurants
from New York to Boston.

Peele leases 15 acres to organic produce
and fl ower farmer Andy Szymanowicz,
whose Sol Flower Farm runs a Community
Supported Agriculture (CSA)
program out of a joint “farm shop” with
Herondale. Farming organically for the
past 10 years, Szymanowicz likes the
CSA model that allows the farmer and
community to come together, and where
one price, $600 in this case, feeds a family
of four for 22 to 24 weeks. Edick is a
member of CSA, as are roughly 100 others,
up from 60 last year. Some members
live in New York City, opting to drive two
hours to select their own produce.

“We’re selling the experience of coming
to the farm,” says Szymanowicz.
“People think this kind of food is expensive
or unapproachable, but it works for
people of all economic backgrounds.”

Glenn Strickling, a chef at the Greens
at the Copake Country Club, is a promoter,
buyer and cooker of local foods. He
was one of the early chefs to source farm
ingredients on his menu. A sponsor of
the Friends of the Farmer festival in two
weeks, Copake Country Club and Strickling
serve eggs from Pigasso and beef
from Herondale.

“You can taste the difference,” says
Strickling. “You can’t get near this quality
from anything mass-produced. This
area is alive again.”

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