A small Suburban Farm.
We garden to lose our minds, and sometimes to find them.
As I sat outside, feet away from a working farm that sells organic produce to 170 families on the bucolic Cropsey family property, I remembered what Pat Cropsey told me back in March of 2012, several years after her husband Jim retired from farming, “Nine developers came to the house wanting to purchase our property in the days before Jim and I decided to sell our land to the Town of Clarkstown through their open space Program.”
Jim and Pat Cropsey still live in the Blauvelt Brothers 1769 home at the foot of Cropsey Farm in New City where the Rockland Farm Alliance, under a licensing agreement with the County and the town, launched Cropsey Community Farm in 2011.
No homes were built on this land, although existing zoning regulations would have approved as many as 48 single family homes. Instead, the land is a farm again where dozens of children are educated each month about where their food comes from, families are invited for Family Sundays, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is in place where hundreds of local residents leave with a basket filled with locally grown vegetables every week, where there is a Junior Farmers Summer Program, children’s photography workshops, wild edible walks, composting workshops and four farmers (Shane, Jose, Ryan and Peter), one intern studying at Cornell and dozens of volunteers work every day from sunrise to sunset at a small suburban farm.
“The message was loud and clear,” remembers John McDowell, President of the Alliance. “Community members want locally grown food and see the many health benefits of small farms among the suburbs.”
Jim Cropsey’s grandfather bought the property in 1893 as a place to get away from the City. There were over 500 working farms in Rockland County before World War II.
The Young Farmer
Shane Hardy, the current Farm Manager at Cropsey Community Farm remembers eating the sweet corn that Jim Cropsey grew on the very same land where he is growing kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, garlic, cabbage, beets, artichokes, basil, string beans, peas, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, broccoli and micro greens.
Shane grew up in Nyack, in suburbia, close to the Hudson River. “I used to build elaborate structures and my parents would ask me what they were. ‘It’s a structure’ I would say.” laughed Shane. “I loved to build and play around in the dirt.” he continued.
Shane attended the University of Vermont for two years studying philosophy and religion. He then travelled to Bolivia for six months and his life changed. “I saw so many people working so very hard that I wanted to know what it felt like to work like them. I became very aware of the essentials of life. Necessities such as food, a roof over my head and access to clean drinking water were what I thought about.” he explained. Shane took a year off from school and worked construction building “structures” just like when he was a child.
Shane returned to his studies finishing up at Ithaca College. “I knew then that I wanted to be a grower. All ethical implications at that time right after College were huge for me but I knew I wanted to grow something. I don’t really even now think of myself as a farmer as much as a grower. The definition of farmer, in my mind, is someone who grew up on a farm. A child who chipped in and worked hard by his father’s side for years.” he said.
Shane worked with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (wwofusa.org) on a farm in Arizona and then returned east to work at Cayuga Pure Organics in Ithaca, NY for a few years. This is his first season working for the Rockland Farm Alliance at Cropsey Community Farm alongside Jose Bosch, sales and logistics manager. “I think that the natural world needs stewardship,” he explained. “Jose gets all the moving parts together so I can sometimes plan and think. I want people to be aware of where their food comes from. How it is grown. I want to be a big part of bringing farming back to the suburbs.”
On Sunday October 6th the Rockland Farm Alliance will be sponsoring the second annual “Farm to you Fest” in Rockland County.
Joan Gussow, Professor, author, gardener and leader in the local and organic food movement since the 1970’s participated in the event last year opening up her flower and vegetable garden in Piermont on the water’s edge. “I was so thrilled last year that the Rockland Farm Alliance asked me with my one eleventh of an acre to be a part of the tour!” she laughed. “It was so much fun; it is so very important that children see the way food is grown even on a small scale.”
The event is County wide and starts at the headquarters, Cropsey Community Farm. Visitors receive a map of participating gardens and farms and a schedule of events throughout the County. It is a self guided tour that will include Rockland’s only dairy farm, orchards, micro-farms, local nurseries, a restaurant with a rooftop garden and so much more. There will be workshops, cooking demonstrations and tours. Tickets will be sold in advance and on site at Cropsey Community Farm.
Last year Cropsey Community Farm, Bluefield Farm, Dr. Davies Farm, Schimf Farm, Van Houten Farm, Joan Gussow’s Garden, Heritage Herb Farm, Hook Mountain Growers, Piermont Community Garden, Danny’s Backyard Organics, Cornell Cooperative Extension Center, Duryea Farm, Suburban Foragers and Orchards of Conklin were all participants.
This year Union Restaurant in Haverstraw will be added to the list. For a full list of 2013 gardens and farms and more details, go to the Rockland Farm Alliance website at http://www.rocklandfarm.org.
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of the event, please contact Donna McClure at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Some sponsors will have a table set up at Cropsey Community Farm, great exposure in Rockland County!