Local Food Pioneers: How Glynwood’s Harvest Award Winners are Cultivating the Future of Farming in the Hudson Valley

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A guest blog post by Judy LaBelle, President of Glynwood, a sustainable agriculture non-profit in Cold Spring that works to save farming.

On Earth Day, a conversation about the future of farming in the Hudson Valley was held at Vassar College. Open to students and the public, the four speakers were the winners of Glynwood’s 10th Annual Harvest Awards, which honor farmers, individuals and organizations doing exemplary work to support their regional food system. I was proud to be the moderator for a panel discussion where they talked about their work and achievements.

At right, Glynwood’s Judy LaBelle moderated this panel of Local Food Pioneers: Don Lewis, Wild Hive Farm; Kathleen Harris, NELPSC; Jerry Simonetti, Hudson Valley Fresh; Stephani Van Wagenen, Farm to Table Co-Packers.

After 9 years of honoring innovators and leaders of the sustainable ag movement from across the country, Glynwood decided to celebrate its 10th Anniversary by focusing on work being done in our own backyard. It says a great deal about how far things have come in the Hudson Valley that after considering a rich array of nominees including farmers, advocacy groups, and businesses, the winners named by the Awards Selection Committee were each at least one step up the chain that connects farmers and consumers.

What do I mean by that? I mean that each of them is providing invaluable services and improving the food-related infrastructure that connects farmers with new market opportunities, which makes farming more economically viable. It also says a great deal that only one of this year’s winners was even around when the Harvest Awards began in 2003 – meaning the growth of the local food movement is stronger than ever in our region.

Their impressive work exemplifies the rich agricultural diversity of our region:

Farm to Table Co-Packers enables small farmers to manufacture value-added products from their fruit and vegetable harvests at a state-of-the-art kitchen and manufacturing facility.
Hudson Valley Fresh has developed a model for a dairy co-op that provides a sustainable livelihood to their member farmers and high quality milk to regional consumers.
Northeast Livestock Processing Service Co. has created a networking system that connects livestock farmers to processing facilities and then helps them to sell their meat to retail and institutional markets.
Wild Hive Farm has reshaped the future of grain farming in the Hudson Valley by reviving heirloom grain varietals and opening a milling facility in the region.

Consider these numbers, which will help suggest the importance and impact of their work.

Collectively, they directly support at least 206 farms:
– 5 of these farms are growing 200 acres of grain for human consumption;
– 9 of these farms produce high quality milk from 1,200 pastured cows;
– 60 of them produce more than 200,000 pounds of vegetables for processing alone; and
– 130 of these farms are raising high quality pastured livestock.

These are all farmers who would find it extremely difficult – if not impossible –
to reach the growing regional market without the service provided by these Local Food Pioneers. And what makes it even more exciting is the knowledge that behind each of these successful businesses are dozens of other individuals and groups who may not be as far advanced, or who are taking a different approach, but who are every bit as energetic and dedicated to the creation of a strong regional food system in the Hudson Valley.

At left, guests enjoyed local cheeses after the panel discussion.

Read more about Glynwood’s Harvest Award Winners and be inspired!

Judy LaBelle is the President of Glynwood, a sustainable agriculture non-profit in Cold Spring that works to save farming.

To read more about Glynwood’s work, visit www.glynwood.org.

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Guest bloggers are encouraged to contribute to Small Bites. To submit an idea, email food editor Liz Johnson at food@lohud.com

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