Helping Farming Thrive in the Hudson Valley

From by Clare Algozin
Helping Farming Thrive in the Hudson Valley

Glynwood’s mission is to ensure that farming thrives in the Hudson Valley, both economically and as a livelihood. They accomplish this by developing and implementing core programs that demonstrate the industry’s impact and viability.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Sommer Hixson, Director of Communications of Glynwood.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Sommer Hixson (SH): We farm, train farmers, connect regional farm and food professionals and create new opportunities for them in the marketplace, and convene change-makers and like-minded organizations around food system transformation. By supporting independent agriculture, we are helping to build a sustainable and resilient food system that positively affects community cohesion, environmental conservation, and human well-being.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of? Please explain.

SH: Through our Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator in New Paltz, New York, we are ushering in a new generation of profitable, conservation-oriented farm entrepreneurs while bringing more preserved farmland into production and investing in farm communities across the region. We provide the tools and resources aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs need to develop and manage viable farm enterprises. We reduce the traditional barriers to success for new farm businesses by providing access to land, housing, shared equipment, infrastructure, low-interest capital, business mentoring, and training in advanced practical skills.

The success of our Cider Project has provided the foundation for a regional craft cider industry. In addition to sponsoring annual Cider Week promotions in both New York City and the Hudson Valley, we have assisted with the formation of the New York Cider Association, the first statewide trade association for hard cider and a newcomer to the state’s burgeoning craft beverage economy. As a result of these initiatives, the apple and cider producers with whom we’ve partnered are enjoying increased sales and profitability.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

SH: Our ultimate vision is a Hudson Valley defined by food: where farmers prosper, food entrepreneurs succeed, residents are nourished, and our communities are inspired. We plan to provide support to at least 15 new sustainable food and farming businesses over the next five years through our incubator. The inaugural class of participants moved onto the property earlier this year, and we are now accepting applications for next year.

Over the course of last year we began to more rigorously document the business practices of both our livestock and vegetable enterprises while piloting more effective marketing strategies to increase our sales. Our goal is to share these models with regional producers as  templates and a resource.

Inspired by our success with the Cider Project, we are focused on creating similar opportunities for livestock farming, beginning with a week-long master class held at Glynwood for our region’s leading charcuterie producers. We are currently working on our very first "seed grow-out" in collaboration with the Hudson Valley Seed Library and local growers, through which we will re-introduce a nearly extinct baking bean to regional chefs this fall.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

SH: Community-supported agriculture is crucial for local farmers but we urge consumers to pay as much attention to clean energy and water conservation, as both industries play a key role in supporting an infrastructure for sustainable farming.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

SH: Glynwood is an agricultural non-profit. Opportunities to support our mission include participating in or attending our public events, volunteering on our farm or in our offices, buying our food products, or donating directly to our organization.

Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide HERE.

Submit your suggestions for the 2015 guide HERE.

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