Hawthorne Valley is a biodynamic community – farmland, farm store and school

Hawthorne Valley Farm (HVF) is a multi-faceted community within the tiny hamlet of Harlemville in Ghent, New York. It is a biodynamic dairy and produce farm with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Farm Store, and a K-12 Waldorf School. Biodynamic, by nature, is a holistic approach to agriculture. It is a commitment to rethinking agriculture through healthy food, healthy soil, and healthy farms. Many of the products sold in the Farm Store are grown on Hawthorne Valley land and made on site.

Andreas Schneider is the Director of Farm Production Enterprises overseeing the operations of the Sauerkraut Cellar, the Bakery, and the Creamery. As with many residents in the Hudson Valley who grew up on farms here, left for college and to work elsewhere only to return to their roots, so did Andreas. He actually grew up at HVF where both his parents worked; his dad was a dairy farmer and his mom was one of the founders of the CSA.

Andreas earned his Masters of Business Administration from George Washington University, in Washington D.C. During his time as a student, he and two classmates founded Capital Kombucha, the District’s first local kombucha brewery. After two years of operation, Capital Kombucha has become a recognized brand carried by over 100 stores between Northern Virginia and the Hudson Valley, including such well-known markets as Whole Foods and Dean&Deluca. Prior to starting Capital Kombucha, Andreas spent three years in Boston as a management consultant focused exclusively on helping large family-run enterprises manage generational succession.

HVF makes 150 products that are sold at the Farm Store and at six green markets including New York City. HVF has been making delicious lacto-fermented vegetables since 1999 when it started with a crock, a bumper crop of cabbage, and a little salt. The results were a hit and HVF has been making sauerkraut, as well as several other products, ever since. The Sauerkraut Cellar’s production is heaviest during the winter months as September is when cabbage is harvested; cabbage keeps very well through the cold weather months. Some cabbage is grown on the farm and is supported by harvests from other local farms. The cellar’s products include four different sauerkrauts (one plain and three flavored), kim chee, ginger carrots, and beet kvass that are lacto-fermented from three to six months. The lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Lacto-fermented products should be refrigerated and will keep for at least six months.

The 60-cow dairy herd that forms the nucleus of HVF is a mix of mostly Brown Swiss, a little Jersey, and a remnant bit of Holstein. All the cows are mixed-breed and are cows that have developed into a farm-specific breed of their own. The Brown Swiss-type of cow is typically sturdy, can walk far distances to the outlying pastures, has a calm temperament, and is tolerant of both hot days and cold weather. These cows are known for their gentle dispositions and good nature, which is crucial for a farm that has as many visitors and educational components as HVF does. The Brown Swiss and Jersey milks have a higher fat content and a higher protein content than other breeds’ milks, making it ideal for making HVF’s cheeses and yogurts, and all the better for a nice cream line on its raw milk. Andreas suggests that any visitors to the farm should definitely try the raw milk as there is no comparison between it and pasteurized milk.

The products made from the farm’s biodynamic cows’ milk can be enjoyed with the assurance that the cows are grass-fed on Hawthorne Valley pastures throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In late fall and winter, they are fed biodynamic hay and baleage from the fields; limited amounts of certified-organic grain (currently barley) are fed to the dairy cows for the purpose of helping them maintain condition during winter. They are given no hormones or antibiotics and all the cows keep their horns. There is emerging research that cows with horns will help their digestive system, hence making their milk richer. Also, unlike commercial dairies that take the calves away from the moms upon birth so as to maximize milk production, HVF calves stay with their moms for at least three weeks or longer. A happy cow makes for better milk it seems.

All the dairy cows and bulls are named; farmers and apprentices know all the animals’ names and personalities. Calves are given names that begin with the same first letter as their mother. Hence, “Hyacinth’s” calves may be called “Heather”, “Hippo”, and “Hector”. By doing this, it allows the farmers to keep track of family lineage and family characteristics within the herd. HVF has a “closed” herd, which means that HVF does not buy in animals; it raises its own calves for a future herd.

HVF’s careful management and care of its dairy herd leads to happy cows, healthy soil, and delicious dairy products. HVF was one of the first dairies in the United States to be certified organic. Currently, the Creamery makes four flavors of yogurt – Plain, Maple Vanilla, Strawberry, and Lemon; hard cheeses including Cheddar and Alpine; various soft cheeses including Bianca and Mayhill; and Raw Milk, Whey, and Buttermilk. HVF only uses milk from its own herd of dairy cows, ensuring the milk to be of the freshest and highest quality. All of the products are 100 percent certified organic and biodynamic.

The certified organic Bakery, housed in the Farm Store building, is well–known for its organic breads and bakery products. The flours, grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits used in the bakery goods are all biodynamic or organically grown, and the wheat is milled daily to ensure freshness. HVF’s Bakery includes a variety of sourdough (every aspect of the farm is treated personally ~ even the sourdough starter has a name, “Henry”) and yeasted breads, rolls (both sourdough and yeasted), granolas, scones, muffins, several types of cookies, and a host of other treats. These freshly-made and nutritious goods are sold at the Farm Store, as well as market stands in New York City, and can be ordered by HVF’s CSA members. The baked goods that are made from grains grown on the farm are designated as such in the Farm Store.

Andreas makes a point of encouraging visitors to tour the farm and visit the animals. For anyone visiting the Hudson Valley, Hawthorne Valley Farm should not be missed. One can call ahead to schedule a guided tour by calling Karen Preuss at 518.672.4465, ext. 224.

 

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Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

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