Our Environment, Animal Tips & the Great Outdoors

Stonewood Farm Addresses Food Insecurity in the Hudson Valley

By Published On: March 22nd, 2024

Stonewood Farm, located off of Bangall Road in Millbrook, NY, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that champions environmental stewardship, social justice, and community well-being in the Hudson Valley. 

Prepping for the upcoming season

With the weather warming earlier and the growing season rapidly approaching, Stonewood is working hard to prepare the farm for the hustle and bustle of the season. “We were able to purchase a new brood of chickens, so we’re going to have lots and lots of eggs!” said Kristen Essig, the culinary director for Stonewood Farm. Kristen oversees the food sourcing and preparing for Stonewood’s fundraising gatherings, serves as the liaison between the Market Garden and wholesale customers, and works on all aspects of community outreach. 

Stonewood uses the eggs for their food recovery program, sells them locally at Marona’s Market, and during the summer season, sells them at their bi-monthly pop-up markets. The farmers have also started their seedlings for Stonewood’s annual plant sale on May 4. All of the plants sold at the plant sale are grown in their greenhouse and are certified organic by the USDA and the Real Organic Project. 

All of the profits from the sale of their seedlings and eggs go back into the organization to help fuel their community-based initiatives. 

In the kitchen, all of the visiting chefs have been selected for the upcoming season and Stonewood already released the first three dates for their Sunday Harvest Dinner series, which is Stonewood’s signature fundraiser in which all of the proceeds go to benefit the First Harvest Food Pantry and their other community outreach programs. 

“The tickets to the first three dinners sold out in less than 45 minutes, so we’re pretty proud of that!” Kristen said.

The second half of dates for the Sunday Harvest Dinner series will be released on June 3rd at 9 am exclusively in Stonewood’s newsletter. (You can sign up for their newsletter at this link.) 

Preparing for the upcoming season hasn’t been without challenges. With the increase in rain lately, Stonewood Farm has seen more pooling of water in parts of their property than what is common for them. “Our farmers work within the context of what the climate is providing,” Kristen said. “We try to be as flexible as we possibly can. Sam and Jeremy are so good at what they do, so it allows us to try things out and experiment more.” 

The warmer winter has allowed Stonewood to get a jumpstart on their crops for the summer season. Additionally, the high tunnels on the property have allowed their farmers to grow lettuce mixes, which gives them an extra boost of “beautiful green stuff” during the winter months. 

Garden-to-Plate Cooking Classes

The Garden-to-Plate cooking classes begin with a tour of the market garden led by the farm managers, Sam and Jeremy, during which each student harvests their own fresh produce to use in the class. Following the tour, students reconvene in the kitchen with Kristen to create dishes that highlight the produce that was harvested.

“I’m just in the process of scheduling the classes now. The dates will be released in our May newsletter on May 1st,” Kristen said. “I look at what the farmers are planting this year, and I look back and see what was coming into season this time last year.” 

Each class varies based on what produce is in season, but all classes include instruction on basic knife skills, professional tips, and advice of proper vegetable storage. Class sizes are limited to eight students and space is available on a first-come basis. 

“In the classes, I keep the mantra that you should never run to the grocery store for just one ingredient. Just adapt and change it,” she said. “It’s more about teaching intuitiveness and flexibility, not in just how you farm, but also in how you prepare and cook too.”

Addressing food insecurity

In addition to growing delicious fruits and vegetables, Stonewood Farm also partners with a handful of local organizations to help address food insecurity in the Hudson Valley. 

Stonewood founded the First Harvest Pantry at Lyall Community Church in Millbrook in 2015. Each week during the growing season, Stonewood donates a portion of their freshly harvested produce, as well as a selection of prepared food, to the pantry. The prepared foods that are not brought to the pantry are delivered to the community fridge at the Millbrook Library.

They also make weekly produce donations to the local chapter of Meals on Wheels. According to their website, “on average, each week during the 2022 growing season, we served at least 50 people through the food pantry and another 90 people through Meals on Wheels.”

“We try to do as much as we can,” Kristen said. “We’re always focused on serving our food insecure neighbors and then we use or sell what is not shared.”

Stonewood also partners with other local organizations including Northeast Dutchess Immigrant Services and the Town of Dover to provide for food insecure community members, Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming and the local Grace Year Program to educate and support the next generation of farmers and agriculture workers, and the Cardinal Hayes Home in Millbrook because they “believe no one in our community should be forgotten.”  

“Small impacts with small farms can make a really big global impact if there’s a lot of people doing it,” Kristen said. “There’s no such thing as a tiny dream. There’s always a way to pass food on to those who need us, and that’s what drives us.” 

“It feels great to give back, and what’s really important is because we have great volunteers who come to the farm and help out – as well as donors and people who come to our pop-up markets – we get to share that feeling with them, too.”

To learn more about Stonewood Farm, visit their website here or follow them on Instagram here