Community members were invited onto the grounds of Glynwood’s Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator for an open house on Sunday, June 22 as it nears the final stages of repairing the buildings and preparing the land on the 323-acre site for welcoming the first three participants to the new program in late summer. More than 300 old tires were removed from the property and sheep and cattle have been brought in by Glynwood to start the process of soil restoration with their grazing. The Incubator is a comprehensive three-year program to provide support for agricultural entrepreneurs who already have two to three years of farming experience but who need help taking their farm-based business plan to the next level. The intention is not to teach them farming per se but to round out the existing skills of the participants and prepare them to launch a successful agricultural business. The individuals will be fostered through a combination of methods, including mentoring and education tailored to the participants’ existing skill sets and providing them access to land, shared equipment and opportunities to acquire working capital. The end result? The growth of sustainable food and farming businesses in the region.
Applications for the program will be taken through June 30. So far, said program director Dave Llewellyn, there are seven solid applicants with the possibility of more by the end of the month. A selection committee will meet in mid-August to choose three of the candidates to develop their businesses at the Incubator beginning this year. That group will be joined next year by three more participants, to be followed by another group of three at the start of the third year for a total of nine farm-based businesses to be nurtured simultaneously by year three of the program. Year four, the first group completes the program and moves on, and the cycle continues.
The Incubator is the first venture of its type in the Hudson Valley, modeled after similar endeavors in Massachusetts and Vermont, said Llewellyn. The Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator will focus primarily on livestock operations, but that doesn’t mean other types of farm businesses can’t apply. Of the first seven applicants, in fact, one has a proposal to do vegetable gardening with draft horses and another is for a composting business. “The land here can support diversified interests,” Llewellyn said. “We’ll choose the ones with the strongest chance for success.”
Participants will also be chosen on the basis of whether their businesses will complement each other’s, in order to make the best use of the land and ensure success for not only the current entrepreneurs in the program but those who participate in the years to come.
Vice president of operations Ken Kleinpeter accompanied visitors to the open house on a hayride down Drover’s Lane, which connects the Brook Farm house with the Pine Farm house and barn. The latter is Glynwood’s first priority right now to make structurally sound, said Kleinpeter, with the work to be done by local contractors, as has been the case with other structures on the property. The participants in the Incubator program have the option of living onsite in shared housing at one of the two houses for $4,500, or off site for a $1,500 participation fee.
The Incubator is located on a parcel of land on the eastern escarpment of the Shawangunk Ridge outside New Paltz. The land is owned by the Open Space Institute, leased to Glynwood since March of this year. The Cold Spring-based nonprofit organization’s mission includes promoting regional food and empowering farm communities along with operating a working farm and training farmers.
But Glynwood’s Incubator program in New Paltz has not been without controversy within the community. The previous tenant of the property was the Brook Farm Project, a popular CSA. The Open Space Institute opted not to renew Brook Farm’s lease in favor of seeing the Incubator take over the property. Some local residents objected to the change, worried about what would happen to Brook Farm’s Creek Iversen and about the possible consequences from increased development of the site, including public access to the land.
Some of those residents attended the open house and made clear that their objections are not yet satisfied. “There’s some of us who don’t care too much for the lines you’ve drawn,” one man said to Llewellyn. Questions were raised about whether there will be a slaughterhouse on the site (there won’t be) and how many cattle are going to be housed there (no more than 100, maximum, and likely many less than that).
With regard to Iversen, he’s now farming in Hurley. Llewellyn said that people from Glynwood have been in touch with him and he’s thriving in his new location. As for access to the Incubator site, Pine Road will continue to be open to the public and people who park at the end of the road will still have access to Mohonk Preserve (with a membership or day pass). Lenape Lane is a private road and will be managed by the Preserve, Glynwood and the Open Space Institute, open to Preserve members and pass holders to enter on foot, by bicycle or on horseback from authorized parking areas.
Other concerns raised at the open house included questions as to what will happen to slaughtered meat there (a freezer on site is anticipated, said Llewellyn). But, he added, the participants in the program will be running their own businesses and have their own marketing plans. It will be up to the individual farmers what they do with their product, although they will be encouraged to look for underserved markets outside of New Paltz.
Kleinpeter noted that while Glynwood is “cognizant of the local established farms, and don’t want to bring in competition,” it’s something of a “rising tide,” too, he said, where “the more people learn about [buying fresh and local] the more the market expands.”