New York Profile: The Kavakos Family of Stoneledge Farm
Westchester is in good proximity to several farms where you are able to go and pick your own veggies and fruits during the summer and fall (Check the farms/picking section for more info). What you may not know is that there are a few farms which will also bring their organic veggies close to your home.
In my first local news segment, I’m profiling the Kavakos family who are the owners of Stoneledge Farm. Stoneledge is a 200 acre, certified organic farm located in New York’s Catskills. The original farmstead lay on 50 acres of mostly wooded land supported by a stone ledge (and hence the farm’s name). The farm fields and main barns are located on 150 acres of agricultural property near the Catskill Creek.
The Kavakos Family built and work the farm themselves. Over the last twenty years the family grew this small, local business by partnering with Westchester and New York City folks like you and me. How? In 1996, Stoneledge became a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
Not familiar with CSA’s? Essentially CSAs are co-operatives where a group of people buy shares in a farm’s annual harvest. In exchange, the farm provides its shareholders with weekly shares (24 weeks) of fresh organic veggies, fruits, and even coffee (if you so choose). Typically, the price of your share will be far less than purchasing the same organic goods from your supermarket.
My family participated in two CSA’s when we lived in Manhattan and it was a great experience. With a CSA you know exactly where your food came from. The veggies and fruit you get from a CSA are extremely fresh. The weekly collection of vegetables you receive as a member (weekly shares are based on what the farm harvests that week) leads you to experiment with foods you may not always purchase at your local grocery. In my experience, during the summers most weeks we received greens, tomatoes, peppers and then a rotating collection of other delicious veggies.
By working directly with a CSA your money goes to support a local, family run business that’s interested in organic farming. Another plus is if you want to really get to know the Farm or introduce your kids to a farm, Stoneledge even hosts events throughout the summer and fall when people can come and see the farm and meet the farmers.
I spoke with Pete Kavakos and heard a bit more about their family farm and their commitment to producing sustainable food for New Yorkers.
Westchester Daddy (WD): How did your family get involved in farming?
PETE: We started with a small garden to supply our family. I can remember being very young and telling my mother our garden was getting too big! Little did I know it would be the start of years of work and what would someday become the successful business it is today. We started with small local markets. In 1996 my mother, Deb, met with some interested folks in starting a CSA group in Manhattan. We started with 71 members and had to rent land and rent a 45 year old tractor. Our work force consisted of Pete, Deb myself and me three sisters.
WD: How has the CSA helped grow your farm?
PETE: The CSA took us from 71 members to around 1200-1400 members today. We have been able to purchase our own land combining two local farms into what is now Stoneledge farm. With beautiful agricultural soils we have taken these old pastures and hayfields and turned them into rows of acres of certified organic produce. Without the continued support of our members we would never have been able to accomplish this.
WD: Can you tell me a bit about the crops you will be growing on the farm this year?
PETE: We will be growing around 130 different varieties of vegetables this season. From early spring greens to summer tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers and into the hearty fall root crops. We like to keep our members tables full of variety. We try to get a well rounded share each week regardless of the season. Mixing greens, herbs, bulky roots and tender seasonal crops together weekly.
WD: What are some of the on site opportunities you offer members of the CSA during the summer/winter?
WD: Are there other ways members can get involved in helping your CSA?
PETE: The best way to help our farm is to join and spread the word to friends neighbors and family. The options today for organic produce are greater than ever before. Our farm relies on our members to help spread the word. Their support will help us continue to develop even more sustainable ethical organic practices and fill tables with our fresh truly local and certified organic produce.
WD: Why is organic important?
PETE: Organic farming is very important to us and important to educate the consumer. It is also very important to protect the waters, land and wildlife. The danger of pesticides and herbicides is often overlooked. These sprays are highly toxic not only to yourself but to the environment. Growing organic is far tougher than is often realized, but is critical in preserving our environment and is certainly the healthiest choice of eating available!
Interested in participating in a CSA (runs from June 5th through November)? If you’re in the Southern Westchester (Bronxville, Mount Vernon, Pelham, New Rochelle, East Chester) area consider signing up. You can find the pricing (weekly cost is approximately $25 for veggies), pick up details, and sign up for the Stoneledge Farm CSA here. If you’re further north and want to see some other options please check out the other locations offering this farm’s fantastic organic foods.