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FROM FARM TO TABLE

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by Laura Joseph Mogil

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If you ask your children where the food they eat comes from, you might hear them respond, “from the supermarket.” The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills wants to let kids (and adults) know the real source — the farm. Opening May 1, Stone Barns is an organic farm, education center, restaurant and café that aims to teach its visitors about sustainable, community-based food production and to serve freshly harvested food that has been locally grown. Stone Barns is situated on 80 rolling acres of gardens, pastures and woods, and adjoins the Rockefeller State Park Preserve with over 50 miles of walking and riding trails. The center’s three Norman-style stone barns were built in the 1930s by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as part of his vision of an economically self-sufficient family estate. David Rockefeller and his daughter, Peggy Dulany, have restored the barns and farming operation and opened them to the public in memory of Rockefeller’s late wife, Peggy. Visitors to Stone Barns are invited to walk around and explore. A self-guided tour brochure has a detailed map of the property, and a seasonally updated insert provides information on what is going on around the grounds. There is also a signboard with daily reports, and a guided tour and MP3 audio tour are available for a fee. On any given day, guests walking on paths surrounding the 20 acres of front and back pastures might encounter broiler chickens (grown for their meat), Bourbon Red turkeys, veal calves, and sheep, while Berkshire pigs roam the nearby woods. Also circling the property is the Egg Mobile, a “house” for laying hens built on top of a hay wagon. The animals at Stone Barns are constantly moved about to keep the pastures healthy and productive Spring activities in the 3 1/2 acres of production gardens include the turning over of winter rye and harvesting of the garlic crop. Inside the 22,000-square foot (1/2 acre) greenhouse, seedlings are starting to sprout; they include three types of carrots, four kinds of beets, a variety of lettuces, spinach and peas. Lucky visitors might also see radishes being harvested. Additional vegetable crops are growing in the terraced gardens by the greenhouse; and adjacent to the barns are an herb garden and dooryard garden, brimming with herbs, vegetables, flowers, and apple trees. The former hay barn has been renovated and converted into glass-paneled classrooms and an event space; and the two silos and silo lobby are now used for a reading room, exhibit space, coatroom and restrooms. The courtyard’s Blue Hill Café serves casual food at breakfast and lunch; while the old dairy barn is now home to the Blue Hill Restaurant, offering fine dining at dinner and eventually a Sunday brunch. Many of the farm’s products will be offered at one time or another on the menus of its restaurant and café. Stone Barns is planning innovative programming for schools in the fall. “We’re already conducting pilot programs with several schools, including Pocantico Hills,” says Daphne Derven, director of program and development at Stone Barns. According to Derven, several types of learning experiences will be offered. “On the Farm”, an intensive, daylong course, will teach students how Stone Barns grows and harvests food. The children will work with chefs to prepare a meal with food from the farm and then get to eat what they’ve prepared. Three shorter introductory programs will give an overview of what goes on at Stone Barns. The first is “Meet the Farm”, which will introduce students to what the farm does and how they do it. The second will focus on how the farm raises vegetables, spanning from seed to table. The third will look at the farm’s animals, specifically how they are raised, fed and moved around. In addition, Stone Barns offers a Guiding Program that trains high school students to be guides and volunteers on the farm. Stone Barns is located at 630 Bedford Road and is open from 10am-5pm, Wednesdays-Sundays. Admission is free, however there is a fee for programs as well as audio and guided tours. For further information, call (914) 366-6200 or visit the center’s website at . Stone Barns has joined with Historic Hudson Valley to offer two additional tours, starting May 15. The “Rockefeller Estate Life Tour” includes a visit to Kykuit, the Rockefeller house and gardens, and concludes at Stone Barns. Dinner at the Blue Hill Restaurant (5:45pm seating) may be arranged in connection with the tour. The “Farm-to-Table Tour” includes a self-guided tour of Philipsburg Manor, a working farm of the 18th century, and a visit to Stone Barns. The tour includes an informal lunch at the Greenhouse Café at Philipsburg Manor or the Blue Hill Café at Stone Barns. For further information, call Historic Hudson Valley at (914) 631-8200 or log on to.

 


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