Since our first plantings in the fall of 2003, we have been committed to a simple and holistic set of ecological principles that have guided farmers for millennia:
- The Soil is the foundation of health, nutrition and flavor
- Biodiversity reinforces stability and resilience
- The service of Livestock and their manures are essential contributors to complex, mature ecosystems
- Mixed multi-year rotational systems for animals, grains and vegetable crops that integrate cover crops provide a balance of exercise, nourish and rest needed for enduring and healthy productivity
- The surrounding habitats and Ecosystems are valuable collaborators with cultivated systems
- There is no waste in a natural system.
These basic principles are a baseline from which we have launched myriad ongoing experiments, trials, and lessons. Self-generating, self-renewing agricultural ecosystems offer real solutions to climate change, food scarcity and ecological decline. The Farm at Stone Barns Center works to translate the value of the land beyond its productivity to embrace the social and ecological values that are essential to restoration of resilient regional food cultures. It is the grounds for exploration and experimentation that integrates traditional wisdom with innovative research. It is also an active environment for hosting an equitable, diverse and inclusive community of farmers, chefs, scientists, educators and artisans.
The Farm is a group of interdependent disciplines with each of its farmer members carrying a distinct and essential role in the ensemble. The farmers share resources, information and responsibility for the whole under singular holistic management and work in close partnership with the Innovation Labs and Blue HIll in the development, process and evaluation of research projects. We classify the farm operations into 3 primary groups:
Our program focuses on four-season annual vegetable, flower and herb production on ten acres of fields and an acre of soil greenhouses. The crop production includes a series of rotational systems. Below are the intervals over which we cycle a series of commercial and cover crops in order to improve and maintain the health of our soils in the field, pasture and greenhouse:
- 7 year Specialty Field Vegetable Rotation
- 10 year Four Season Greenhouse Rotation
- 7 year annual/perennial Ley Rotation (Pasture, Grain, Vegetable)
- 4 year Row Crop Rotation
We grow more than 500 varieties of seeded crops and engage in a dozen ongoing seed breeding and trial collaborations. Examples include a Potato release evaluation with Cornell, northeast Sweet Potato trials with Louisiana State University, Beet trials with the University of Wisconsin, spring/winter grain trials with North Dakota State University and flower trials with the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.
We have a multi-species grazing, foraging and ranging livestock program managing over 400 acres of farm and Rockefeller State Park Preserve land in ecological service and production.
- Cattle: 100% grass-fed herds that pulse across the open pasture year round
- Sheep: 100% grass-fed, pulse-grazed flock
- Goat: 100% forest edge browsing ‘Kiko’ x ‘Savannah’ serving as the Rockefeller State Park Preserve invasive control program.
- Pigs: 100% Waste-Fed, forest-ranged ‘Red Wattle’
- Laying Hens
Stone Barns Center adheres to rigorous practices for farm animal welfare and livestock handling. Our protocol is developed and informed by the most renowned animal welfare certification programs in the world, including Certified Humane and American Humane. The bulk of our standards are derived directly from Certified Humane, which serves as the foundational premise of our protocol. The purpose of our standards is to improve the lives of our farm animals. These standards incorporate scientific research, veterinary advice and farmer experience. They serve as a practical guideline for the care and management of all livestock at Stone Barns Center. We believe that the way we raise our animals, the food they produce and the impact of our farming system on the ecosystem are intrinsically linked, so we strive to build an environment where all three systems can simultaneously thrive.
Stone Barns Center comprises 100 acres of managed edible landscaping, composting, agroforestry, fruit and nut orchards and formal organic gardens. Additional Ecological Monitoring work expands across 300 acres of pastoral ecosystems, which are part of the neighboring Rockefeller State Park Preserve. As mentioned above, we use livestock grazing to manage these protected lands: the animals bring a range of services that have the potential to improve the biodiversity of wild plants and animals, soil health, carbon sequestration, and soil water and absorption, while also fortifying the grasslands that the animals themselves rely on. We are hopeful that this relationship will demonstrate the positive impact that regenerative agriculture can have not only in protecting communities from the worst ravages of climate change, but also in helping reverse the course of global warming.
- Through our Conservation Action Plan, we have set seven ecological goals:
- Resilience, or the ability for the ecological system to be self-regulating and self-renewing;
- Developing animal health through adaptive rotational multi-species grazing and foraging;
- Native biodiversity, including native field wildflowers and native pollinators;
- Improved forage quality and soil condition;
- Invasive species prevention and control;
- Nesting by grassland bird species, such as bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus);
- Developing a holistic grasslands management system
All photo credits: Elena Wolfe