Monday, October 26, 2009

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Location: Westchester County, New York
Years: 2004-2009
Founded by: David Rockefeller and Peggy Dulany

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a non-profit, member-driven initiative created in 2004 by David Rockefeller and his daughter Peggy Dulany to “celebrate, teach and advance community-based food production and enjoyment, from farm to classroom to table.” Grass-fed livestock and more than 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables -some of which are almost extinct, such as the New England Eight Flint Row corn- are raised and grown year round in a sustainable fashion on 6 acres of farmland and a 22,000 square feet minimally heated greenhouse. Although the center places a strong educational focus on children, offering school visits (which more than 20,000 students have already participated in), after school programs and a summer camp, its reach extends to a wider segment of the population, currently enjoying 100,000 visitors annually. In addition to training a future generation of sustainable farmers and having multiple volunteer opportunities, Stone Barns’ public program offers classes, lectures, workshops and panels led by farmers, gardeners, chefs and figures such as writer Michael Pollan and New York University professor Marion Nestle.

The farm also partnered up with chef Dan Barber to open Blue Hill at Stone Barns, building upon the success of Barber’s first Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan, which the New York Times praised as potentially making “the most serious and showy an effort to connect diners to the origins of their food.” At Stone Barns, Blue Hill chefs collaborate with the farmers to offer a menu where local and seasonal ingredients are king.

Stone Barns’ greatest strength seems to lie in its multifaceted approach in helping create a greater farm-to-plate connection, while its proximity to the New York metropolitan area allows for a large impact. Although seemingly intent in broadening its reach to lower wealth brackets -for example by proposing tuition assistance for the school programs- Stone Barns’ activities remain focused on the higher end of the wealth spectrum, if the typical $185 per person meal tab at Blue Hill is any indication. This aside, with farm income, program and rental fees, and 1,700 individual and corporate members contributing to an operating budget of over $3.5 million in 2007, and a $25 million bequest by David Rockefeller to help support the farm’s operations into the indefinite future, Stone Barns certainly has the financial strength to back its ambitions of playing a leading role in the construction of more culturally and environmentally sustainable food systems.

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