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Sustainable C o n n e c t i c u t

Annie Farrell Rock Star Farmer

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Special Preview

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Sustainable C o n n e c t i c u t publisher/founder

Pamela C. Jones

Jennifer Cole

editor

Contributing Writers

Dana White

Bill Duesing, Amy Kalafa, Analiese Paik, Eileen Weber

from the publisher Welcome to Sustainable Connecticut, a new publication that showcases the emerging local food movement in our counties and towns. These pages are a glimpse of what we hope to become: your go-to resource for essential truths about the food you are eating, where it comes from, and how we can all contribute to a healthier planet. ¶ A movement has emerged in America. Its leaders and heroes have dirt under their fingernails and tan lines on their foreheads. This movement found me in the summer of 2009, when the last farmer in Fairfield posted a distress notice on the garage where he sold his produce, announcing that he couldn’t hold on any longer. I petitioned the town for permission to lease two acres on which to start the Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm (FOTF). Over the past two years, we’ve become a recognized face in the local food movement. We’ve handed out Hummingbird Awards to environmentalists, started a Seed to Seed Library, held workshops and revitalized the Greenfield Hill Grange #133. ¶ Annie Farrell, our cover subject, is another well-known face of the movement. Aspiring organic farmers, including rock stars, philanthropists and actors, seek her out to transform their land into intensive gardens. In fact, Farrell designed the basic layout for the FOTF. Walking in the high meadow with her on a scorching late-summer day, sizing up sun, water, soil and drainage, was an unforgettable experience. ¶ We’d like you to walk with us. Perhaps you believe that our survival as a planet depends on each of us buying food that has been cultivated sustainably. Perhaps you think each family should cultivate its own garden, and each town its own farm. Perhaps you’d simply like to nourish your family with healthier, organic food. Those of us working on these pages believe that for our world to endure, we must support locally based carbonneutral solutions. ¶ Our thanks to Marianne Howatson, CEO of Cottages & Gardens Publications, for her kind and generous offer to include this preview of Sustainable Connecticut in the April issue of CTC&G. Many thanks to Editorial Director D.J. Carey, the “sustainability visionary” who made this collaboration happen, and our friend Susan Reed, who got it right away. If you like what you read and want to support us, please “Like” us on Facebook. To read more about the local sustainability movement, visit us at sustainablethemagazine.com. Our future is in your hands.

Pamela C. Jones Publisher and Founder President, Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm

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Contributing Photographer

Doreen Birdsell, Kate Eisemann, assistant

Community a few faces of the movement

Chef Michel Nischan and our Locavore columnist and green foodie Analiese Paik attended an FOTF public meeting last summer.

At the meeting, we auctioned off six organic pies to raise funds for the FOTF. Cindi Kruth’s lofty Mile High Lemon Meringue pulled in a whopping $150.

Sal Gilbertie, America’s organic herb king, received our Hummingbird Award for environmentalism.

Jennifer Cole (left), our creative director and FOTF’s vice president, with Misty Beyer, who accepted a Hummingbird Award on behalf of her late parents.

One of the fringe benefits of our work is bringing home fresh eggs from Millstone Farm. Ah, the omelettes.

Beth Bradley, our digital director and an FOTF officer, is also a guitarist. She performed at the Greenfield Hill Grange’s annual fair in October.

Cover Photograph by Doreen birdsell

creative Director/Cofounder


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Lo c avo r e

Staying Hungry by Analiese Paik MORE SUPER MARIO Celebrity chef, restaurateur and author

Mario Batali and partners plan to open a new restaurant in early summer on the former site of Abbondanza market and Bonda restaurant in Westport. According to partner Nancy Selzer, Tarry Lodge Enoteca Pizzeria is a “casual reinterpretation of the Tarry Lodge” in Port Chester and features a wood-fired pizza oven and grill. Chef Andy Nesser says he will initially source from the Westchester farms that supply the Port Chester restaurant, but plans to forge relationships with Connecticut farmers for the Westport location.

MAKING WAVES Michel Nischan’s influence continues to grow. On February 12, the James Beard award-winning chef and sustainable food pioneer presented at TEDxManhattan. “Changing the Way We Eat” was an all-day event dedicated to sustainable food and farming, in which he challenged guests to embrace possibilities for “creating real change in our nation’s food system.” (To watch the presentation, go to tedxmanhattan.org/webcast-session-3.) In April, Nischan will be a presenter on “The Rationale of Local” breakfast panel and a featured chef at Fortune magazine’s annual Brainstorm GREEN conference. Wholesome Wave, Nischan’s nonprofit, makes healthy, fresh food more affordable and accessible through its innovative Double Value Coupon and Fruit & Veggie Prescription Programs. In recognition of these initiatives and their ability to effect change on a national scale, Ashoka elected Nischan to its global fellowship of leading social entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries. “Ashoka is known for gathering creative and driven folks to work together to make significant social change possible,” he explains. Sounds like Chef Nischan should fit right in.

chef/owner of LeFarm, the wildly popular farm-to-table restaurant

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MEAT AND GREET Get to know this name: Ryan

Fibiger. A graduate of the whole-animal butcher training program at Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, N.Y., Fibiger is bringing his nose-to-tail butchery to Fairfield County. He plans to open a new retail butcher shop featuring local, pasture-raised meats in Fairfield or Westport, and envisions his shop as an alternative to the huge synthetic machine that the meat industry has become. “Meat is the centerpiece of most of our meals, yet most consumers have no idea where their meat comes from and how it was raised,” says Fibiger, a protégé of Joshua Applestone, Fleisher’s co-owner and master butcher. “The business model needed to be completely reinvented.” (And he knows a thing or two about business, having spent a decade on Wall Street.) Locavore canines can chow down on Chef Alex Gunuey’s Bone-A-Part gourmet dog food made from scratch with trimmings from Fibiger’s shop, a symbiotic relationship that ensures no part of any animal, from tip to tail, goes to waste. Look for Bone-A-Part at your local farmers’ market.

Analiese Paik is the founder and editor of the Fairfield Green Food Guide, a free online consumer resource for finding local and sustainably grown food and connecting with the green food community.

Standing: Bill Taibe and Ryan Fibiger. Seated: Alex Gunuey

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Photograph by Doreen Birdsell

HIGH HONORS Bill Taibe,

in Westport, is a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Northeast. “It’s a pretty amazing honor and was quite unexpected,” says Chef Taibe. “It’s slightly surreal.” And what will he do with his expanded celebrity chef status? “LeFarm will stay where it is, but we may take the philosophy and do something a little different with it. Lots of ideas are on the table, including a possible second location.” He and his team are nearing the end of an arduous green certification process, which has required making changes to everything from dish soap to carryout containers and cold packaging used by their fishmonger. “We always had the goal of becoming a green-certified restaurant, and now we’re literally down to changing the lightbulbs.”


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Gardening

Spring Lettuce by Bill Duesing Varieties Lollo Rosso, Curly Oakleaf, Red

Sails, Buttercrunch, Red Riding Hood, Salad Bowl, Sangria and Rosalita are just a few of the lettuce varieties available to the home gardener. One catalog from a New England seed company lists more than 50 different varieties of lettuce, including ones especially suitable for spring, summer and fall planting, as well as others for cutting and for greenhouse production. These varieties fall into four general types: looseleaf, butterhead, crisphead and romaine. Depending on the type, they produce a crop between six and 10 weeks, but all of them can be eaten sooner as you thin the small plants or harvest the outer leaves for a salad.

Calendar Lettuce prefers cool weather;

Location The warmer the weather, the more important the

moisture-holding capacity of the soil becomes. Consider planting a few seedlings in sunny spots among your foundation plantings or in your perennial garden. A little shade, especially in the middle of the day, helps lettuce in the summer.

sage advice Keeping a record book is one of the most useful

habits the beginning gardener can practice. The number of variables in the garden is enormous. Each kind of vegetable has several, or many, varieties. There are numerous places to buy seeds and a wide range of planting times. Soil fertility, drainage and sunlight can vary in different beds or parts of the garden. Cultural practices and growing methods vary also, and the weather is different each year. Without records, you may not remember which type of let-

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tuce tasted so good and was so prolific, or which didn’t have much flavor. You may find that your lettuce didn’t flourish, and then discover in your records that you planted it at the end of June, which is too late. bring it home Although so many varieties of lettuce can be grown here easily for six to eight months a year, and greenhouses produce lettuce commercially year-round, most of the lettuce eaten in Connecticut is the iceberg variety grown in the deserts of California and Arizona on huge corporate farms. Iceberg lettuce is over 95 percent water (the highest percentage of any lettuce variety) and is the lowest in vitamin and mineral content. Plant some lettuce soon. Buttercrunch and Red Salad Bowl are delicious varieties that are easy to grow. If you can’t plant lettuce this spring, find gardeners or farmers who can, and support local food production by buying their produce.

Bill Duesing is executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut. A farmer, author and environmental artist, he has promoted organic agriculture and greater local food sufficiency in Connecticut for almost 40 years. He has also created school gardens and farms in New Haven and Bridgeport.

Somos Photography/Veer

the heat and dryness of summer cause it the most stress. Lettuce can be planted outside now, or started inside or in a cold frame for transplanting outside. Plant this weekend, and you’ll be eating thinnings by the end of April and harvesting mature lettuce by the end of May. If you plant some seeds every two to three weeks, you will have a continuous supply of lettuce until October. A loose, fertile soil with plenty of compost and a near neutral pH will grow delicious lettuce. It is a very beautiful plant, especially the red-leaf varieties.


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Appetite

for

change

The Great School Food Makeover

One Connecticut school’s efforts are on the cutting edge of a movement to change the pizza and nuggets meal culture

A

s a society, we have a moral obligation to care for and nurture our children, and providing a healthy school lunch—not the carb-intensive, overprocessed “food product” served in so many schools—should be part of that effort. The federal government is getting the message. In January, the USDA unveiled what it called “critical upgrades” for nutritional standards for public school meals that include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limited levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories and trans fats. The USDA estimates that 32 million children will benefit from these new guidelines, but they are a far cry from the kind of organic, sustainable food served in pioneering private schools around the U.S. One of them is The Unquowa School in Fairfield. Founded in 1917, it has 200 students in pre-K through eighth. “The school had always provided a balanced meal, but the quality left a bit to be desired,” confesses Head of School Sharon Lauer. Several years ago, after some parents approached Lauer about making their kids’ school food more organic, she began to study the possibilities. She read about the edible school gardens that legendary chef Alice Waters created in California and in New York, as well as Waters’ influence in changing the food service at Yale University (see sidebar). Then, in the spring of 2005, Lauer attended a lecture series at the National Association of Independent Schools Sustainable Institute. John Turenne, who had created Yale’s sustainable food program, was giving a presentation. “Afterward, this woman comes running up to me and John Turenne, grabs me and says, ‘I need to talk to you!’” Turenne recalls. change agent “It was Sharon Lauer.”

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Turenne had just left Yale to start Sustainable Food Systems, a consulting firm that helps institutions shift their menus to locally sourced products. The Unquowa School became his first customer. Out went frozen, prepackaged food and the Frialator; in came an organic garden and fresh produce and meat from local farms. The school also partnered with Sport Hill Farm to start a summer camp where students could learn the arts of planting, cultivating and harvesting. The school’s new chef was crucial. They hired Peter Gorman, who had worked in schools and restaurants that emphasize seasonal and local ingredients. “Peter tries to get the kids involved in the kitchen,” explains Lauer. “Every fall and spring, we have an Iron Chef competition in which the kids get to make a meal from a secret ingredient. The winner gets their meal on the menu.” At lunchtime, kids sit at large, round tables. The meal du jour is placed on the table for everyone to share, and a teacher sits at the head of each table to “moderate” the meal, keeping a beneficent eye on what ends up on kids’ plates and what doesn’t. “I can monitor their choices so they can’t eat just bread and butter,” explains fifth-grade teacher and farm camp director Mary Faulkner. “They need a protein, a vegetable, and a healthy starch. We help them to make their own choices.” This family-style attitude encourages the kids to try new foods. They don’t have to like it; they just have to try it. Some kids will, some kids won’t, but either way, they realize that eating something green isn’t necessarily distasteful. While it’s good food, it’s still kid food. Yes, there are chicken nuggets, but

photo Courtesy of johnson & wales University

By the editors


photograph by David Liittschwager

they’re homemade with fresh breadcrumbs and Greek yogurt. There’s tomato sauce for the pasta, but it’s made from heirloom tomatoes. There’s grass-fed beef in the chili. They eat cage-free eggs and organic milk, all from local farms. A fresh salad bar and hot soup are always available, and breads are baked every day on the premises. Turenne and Gorman constantly tweak the menu and add new dishes, and they stay within budget while reducing waste. “The school ended up reducing its costs because they started buying more in bulk,” Turenne says. The school also buys “seconds” on vegetables—an heirloom tomato that doesn’t look appealing at the farmer’s market still makes a flavorful sauce or a tangy salsa. The kitchen doesn’t make more food than is needed and uses leftovers whenever possible, and students are encouraged to take only what they can consume. Not only has the school’s new approach made headlines (it was featured in the school-food documentary Two Angry Moms), it’s attracting parents who want their kids’ school to reinforce the healthy habits they establish at home. When Fairfield resident Mary Sullivan was investigating prospective schools for her two children, “The first thing that sold me [about Unquowa] was the kitchen,” she says. “We eat well at home, and now this can be supported at school. There’s no junky lunch. No one is bringing in Twinkies.” Turenne made his work at Unquowa a case study for what could happen at other schools. He has created a holistic, five-part system, from locally grown food to infrastructure to fiscal responsibility, to help other institutions go sustainable; recent clients include the East Harlem School and Spence in Manhattan. He’s also brought his expertise to the small screen. In 2009 he joined the production staff for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the reality show in which the British celebrity chef attempted to transform the eating habits of “the unhealthiest city in America,” Huntington, W.V. Turenne headed the school food makeovers. After the cameras left, he and his staff stayed for six months “to make the changes stick. We went into one school at a time and trained all 77 cooks. We have to make them cooks, not ‘heaters.’ Cooks in these public schools are wonderful people; they’re well intended and passionate and love their kids, but they’ve lost the skills for cooking, if they ever had them. Their idea of a cooking tool is a box cutter.” Fortunately, Turenne and other activist chefs have a powerful ally: the First Lady. In March 2010 he and seven other chefs teamed up with Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and senior policy adviser for healthy food initiatives, to launch Chefs Move to Schools, a component of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to battle childhood obesity. “We brainstormed with Kass and the USDA, and the USDA created a tool kit that schools could adopt,” Turenne explains. The program’s website (www.chefsmove.gov) has get-started information for chefs, parents, students and school administrators, as well as a sign-up page for the Healthier US Schools Challenge. The initiative also encourages chefs to “adopt” a school; so far, 2,800 chefs across the nation have done so. As a Chefs Move to Schools volunteer, Turenne has been teaching children the virtues of real food at his daughter’s elementary school in Wallingford. He admits that it’s easier for private schools to adopt these practices, simply because they’re smaller, more autonomous, and have involved parents. “We don’t have enough money now to serve our kids in public schools. I hope it doesn’t become less,” he says. Yet he isn’t discouraged. “I feel like I’m on the front lines of the battle. There’s a growing army of us trying to make these changes stick, no matter what administration is in office.”

Still Waters Alice Waters, the slow-food pioneer, convinced Yale University to go organic.

Ripple Effect How Alice Waters came to yale and changed one chef’s life. Her name has become synonymous with all things organic. She is a chef. She is a restaurateur. She is an activist. You know her when you see her. The soft gaze. The easy smile. The busy hands always cooking something. Alice Waters, the proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., the mother of edible school gardens on both coasts and the genius behind the Slow Food Movement, has been making a difference in the way we eat since 1971. She is the queen of simple food prepared a simple way. Waters has made a splash in Connecticut, too. Ten years ago, John Turenne, the food service manager at Yale University, got a call from his boss at Aramark, Yale’s food service provider. There was a parent who wished to speak with him. It was Alice Waters. “I nearly had a heart attack,” he recalls. “Gourmet had just ranked Chez Panisse the number one restaurant in the country. And this woman wanted to talk to me?” Waters’ daughter, Fanny Singer, was a freshman, and Waters wanted to make sure the food her daughter would be eating was fresh, local and organic. She convinced Yale’s president to switch to a more sustainable food program. With the help of one of Waters’ chefs, Seen Lippert, Turenne threw himself into the task. “The A-ha moment came about four or five months into

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the project,” he says. “We had a special dinner for about 250 people featuring the new organic menu, and we invited the farmers who provided the food. As I stood there explaining the menu to the guests, I looked up and saw the farmer who dropped off the greens, and the farmer who supplied the tomatoes, and the baker who made the bread. It was very profound.” Turenne realized food had a face. In the spring of 2005 he left Yale to start his consulting business, Sustainable Food Systems. Waters has that effect on people. However soft-spoken she might be, she doesn’t really back down from something she believes in. Fresh food will always be good food. As she says in her latest cookbook, In the Green Kitchen, “Cooking creates a sense of wellbeing...All it requires is common sense—the common sense to eat seasonally, to know where your food comes from, to support and buy from local farmers and producers who are good stewards of our natural resources, and to apply the same principles of conservation to your own home kitchen.” This is the goal of her Chez Panisse Foundation: to support school gardens so that students can grow, cook, and share their own food for a sustainable future. For more information or to get involved, go to www.chezpanissefoundation.org. —Eileen Weber

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she unfolds a map of the Eastern seaboard on which she’s drawn a bold red line from Connecticut to Prince Edward Island. “I’m trying to figure out if it’s cheaper to drive them up or ship them,” she states, tracing the route with her finger. “I’ll have to take the truck—they won’t fit in my car. Fourteen hours. It would be a nice trip, and I think I’d save some money bringing them myself.” That’s what Annie Farrell usually decides: to do it herself. In this case, it means hauling several hundred pounds of sheared sheep’s wool to a maker of artisanal blankets in Canada. Dozens of pillowy black plastic bags are scattered about, making her office look like a Goodwill depot. Each bag contains the wool of a single sheep; one is a misty grey, another the color of dirt streaked with charcoal, a third a deep, inky midnight black. The wool begs to be touched and inhaled, and gives off a musky perfume of dry hay and lanolin. It’s a midwinter day in Wilton, and there are several feet of snow on the ground at Millstone Farm, where Farrell earns her living as a Master Farmer. In 2006, investment manager Jesse Fink and his wife, Betsy, a long-term board member of the American Farmland Trust, hired Farrell to turn their newly purchased 75-acre property into a working farm. Today, Millstone supplies its succulent produce to such top chefs as Michel Nischan (Dressing Room), John Holzwarth (The Boathouse at Saugatuck), Bill Taibe (LeFarm) and Tim LaBant (The Schoolhouse at Cannondale). Millstone also operates a small Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) and makes weekly deliveries to Wilton’s Village Market. Farrell often makes those deliveries herself. She oversees Millstone’s operations, from its greenhouses to its mobile chicken coops to its livestock. In warmer weather, grazing sheep, free-ranging chickens, happy pigs and graceful horses dot the rolling hills, separated by pre-Revolutionary stone fences. But in the winter, Farrell brings the hatching inside. Electrical cords snake around the bags of wool, tethered to incubators filled with multicolored hen’s eggs. Farrell started this batch of hens early, “so they’ll be laying by fall,” she explains. In the spring, Millstone lends the incubators to a local school where the kids hatch the eggs as a science project. Among the school’s students are the children of singer Harry Connick, Jr. The previous year, she says, “They fell in love with the chicks and ended up bringing them home, so we taught the family how to care for them. Now they’re good friends of the farm.”

As more eager and often high-profile landholders adopt the gospel of sustainable farming, they need an expert to help them. Enter Annie Farrell, farming consultant. Bringing four decades of agricultural wisdom to bear, she’s designed and resurrected dozens of organic farms and gardens on the East Coast, harvesting a bumper crop of famous friends along the way. She freely shares stories of fabulous dinners with celebrity chefs; of catching roosters with legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, of rubbing elbows with Paul Newman and his daughter Nell. At the 2007 Global Environmental Citizen Awards ceremony, she met HRH Prince Charles— and afterwards apologized for the roughness of her hands. “Two years ago, Nell Newman did a photo shoot for Vogue at Millstone, and that’s how I met Annie Leibovitz,” she says as she folds up her map. “She asked me to take a look at her place and help her with her gardens.” That’s how it usually goes with Annie Farrell: Everything is connected, and everyone is drawn in by her humility and humor. Yet she’s anything but starstruck: “I’m really only comfortable and grounded when I have both hands in the dirt.” Star chef and sustainable food pioneer Michel Nischan is one of her many fans. “Annie is one of the most dedicated cultivators of soil and relationships,” he says. “She’s part farmer, matchmaker, visionary and chatterbox—all rolled into one beautiful package. Makes damned good pickles, too.” Farrell also makes public appearances at events devoted to the sustainable use of land and resources. Her overarching mission is to teach Americans why and how to produce their own food in their backyards and urban homesteads. Ironically, she was once an urbanite herself. Born and raised in New York City, where she attended Music and Arts High School, Farrell describes her upbringing as “classically Manhattan.” “Dad was a New York City police detective, Mom was a Lord & Taylor lady, and among the freaks at my high school I was more Lord & Taylor than freak,” she explains. Yet as far back as she can remember, she longed to nurture nature. “As a little kid in the city, I would sit on the stoop, and there was a cherry tree right next to the stoop. The cherries would hang down and I could pick a cherry and eat it. That blew my mind—that I could pick cherries right off the tree.” During summer visits to her uncle’s cabin in northernmost Westchester County, she’d ride her tricycle to the dairy farm down the road. “I wanted a horse. Farmers had horses, so I wanted to be a farmer.”

Annie Farrell, master farmer and sustainability guru, helps high-profile clients bring their land to life By Amy Kalafa

Farmer to 58

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Hand in Hand Photographer Annie Leibovitz, pictured here, snapped the photo of Annie Farrell (opposite) during a Vogue photo shoot at Millstone Farm. Leibovitz later hired Farrell to design her own gardens.

the stars Photograph by John Keatly, inset: annie leibovitz


Warm and Fuzzy The sheep at Millstone Farm provide beautiful organic wool prized by blanket makers up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Dave’s Place Rock superstar Dave Matthews (right) hired Farrell to turn his 1,200-acre Virginia spread, the Best of What’s Around Farm, into a certified organic farm, complete with goat dairy.

In the 1970s she bought a piece of land in Bovina, New York, for her farm, living in a house built by hand from native stone and salvaged barn boards. Her neighboring farmers, a group of independent and thrifty old-timers, showed her the basics. “Nothing I learned in school was relevant to what I’m doing now except that I wanted it to be artistic and beautiful. I had zero academic training for this.” She began cultivating baby lettuces, mache, chervil and edible flowers in her fields and greenhouses—the kind of specialty crops that chefs like Alice Waters were touting on the West Coast, but that were practically unheard of in the Northeast. Undeterred, she launched Annie’s Elegant Vegetables in the early 1980s. She found a market for her fancy produce in the gourmet groceries and restaurants of New York City. “The guys from Balducci’s saw me pull up and would say, ‘Hey the veg lady’s here!’ So that’s how I became known.” The moniker is now her license plate and e-mail address. Farrell’s unconventional lifestyle attracted attention from Ms. Magazine and Gourmet. Yet, while her business thrived, dairy farms in the Northeast were going under, and she began consulting with other farmers on how to grow and market specialty crops. “The downfall of farming was monoculture,” she says. “The dairy model was hybrid corn or grain from outside, with inputted fuels and big combines requiring lots of fossil fuels. My goal was to get them to diversify.” In 1986, when an opportunity arose to help develop Cabbage Hill Farm in Westchester County, Farrell eagerly joined forces with owners Jerry Kohlberg, the Wall Street legend (and the first “K” in KKR), and his wife Nancy. “We had so much synergy and big ideas about sustainability and small farms and growing food in closed-loop systems,” she recalls. “Jerry asked me to help them create what he called ‘the big rocket ship’”—meaning a model of sustainable farming that included the preservation of rare breeds of farm animals. “Within a few years, we had opened a slaughterhouse and a restaurant showcasing regional foods.” That restaurant, Flying Pig on Lexington, in Mount Kisco, was

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one of the first local-food restaurants. She also spent years developing and refining a revolutionary aquaponics system “until it worked just right.” This creativity and tenacity landed Farrell other gigs in the area and some farther afield. Westchester County hired her to write a master plan for a sustainable agriculture education center at the 175-acre Hilltop Hanover Farm. In 2003 she got a call “from somebody who said we need consulting help with a large farm in Virginia, the Best of What’s Around Farm. I looked it up. It was Dave Matthews’ place.” The musician and his wife had purchased the 1,200acre farm and placed it under a protective land easement to ensure it would never be developed. Their next step was to create a certified organic farm. The farm already had a CSA and a vineyard, and Farrell drew up plans for a goat dairy. With her input, they developed a strategy that would make the farm more efficient, productive and easier to operate. Over time, Farrell took on an activist role as a defender of farmer and field. She lives in Yorktown Heights in Westchester, and when some suburbanites harassed her farmer friends over the sights, sounds and smells of their operations, Farrell drew on her political capital and pushed the county to create its Agriculture and Farmland Protection Act. She enlisted the gentry of Bedford Hills and environs—families that had been farming there for eight generations—and invited newcomers like Martha Stewart and David Rockefeller to sign on. “That’s how Mr. Rockefeller got to know me,” she says. It turned out that Mr. Rockefeller needed help turning his Westchester estate, Stone Barns, into a working organic farm and restaurant. Farrell pulls out a worn blue folder containing her original computer-generated design. Looping dotted arrows point out the linkages from field to fork and back to the fields. That master plan, covered with her chicken scrawl notes, was the inspiration for the now-celebrated Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Farrell’s farm-design process, from planning to execution, is meticulously


Feathered Friends Environmentalist and philanthropist Betsy Fink (left) checks out some newly hatched chicks at Millstone Farm, which she owns with her husband Jerry. Farrell, Fink’s master farmer, is her indispensible

Joe Erario (sheep), Courtesy Millstone Farm (2), Jake Chessum (Dave Mathews)

partner in implementing her vision for Millstone. Table Ready Produce grown in Millstone’s gardens (above) is sold to the top locavore chefs in the state, including Michel Nischan and Bill Taibe.

plotted and recorded. “Whether it’s one-sixteenth of an acre or two hundred acres, I map it. If it’s a tiny little plot, I map it on Excel by the square foot. For a large farm, I’ll use an aerial photograph and overlay a grid of where the various components are going to be. Then I do a micro-map of each component: where the gardens should be, where to pasture chicken or sheep.” In 2006, the Finks sought her services. Like Farrell, Betsy Fink, a native of Ithaca, New York, dreamed of becoming a farmer. In 2005, her dream came true when she founded Millstone. “I studied forest ecology and soil science, geology, hydrology and did my graduate work in land reclamation. I felt a huge need to have hands-on experience,” Fink says. “Annie learned from the oldtimers. In my mind it’s really a perfect combination because the intersection of all these areas really creates a more sustainable, healthier farm.” Fink and Farrell have developed a deep and symbiotic partnership. Millstone is their vehicle for developing best practices that integrate wisdom from the past with new technologies and innovations, which they then bring to the community. “Annie understands how all the systems come together, and she executes on my vision,” she says. Farrell works year-round with a marked sense of urgency, not so much to complete the task at hand, but to get ahead of her fear of impending regional and global shortfalls. She speaks of food security, peak oil and climate change in both pragmatic and apocalyptic terms. To her, adopting organic and sustainable practices isn’t merely fashionable; it’s imperative. “There has to be some incentive to get people to hire a NOFA-certified landscaper,” she says, referring to the Northeast Organic Farming Association. “Towns should give a tax break. Sooner or later there won’t be any choice. They won’t be able to get the chemicals, and all the things that go along with the chemicals. We won’t be able to get gasoline.” “Annie’s felt this urgency since the day she started farming,” says Fink. “She

had great insight into seeing what bad farming did for the land and what good farming did for the land. She understands our plan. She’s a great networker. And she’s so inspirational to everyone, and especially great with the kids.” Entrepreneur Nell Newman, president of Newman’s Own Organics, concurs. “Annie Farrell is one of those people whose breadth and depth of knowledge takes your breath away. The little time I’ve spent with her was a learning experience I will never forget.” Now that Millstone is “humming along,” Farrell and Fink are focused on building community. They support new organic farms and gardens in suburban backyards and urban “food deserts” around the region. They teach teachers, host school groups and workshops, and employ a handful of summer interns on the farm. They’ve helped build a 200-plus family community garden at Fodor Farm in Norwalk, and Farrell is working on plans for an edible garden at Stepping Stones Children’s Museum. Part of what they’re teaching is economics. “We try to look at the cost of inputs and minimize all that and show that you can grow this much on a square foot and do it all by hand.” This grass-roots component is part and parcel of Millstone’s mission of building a healthy local food system that enhances the natural and social environment: “It’s the anti-precious; that’s what turns us on,” she says. While she continues to design sustainable “rocket ships” for the future, Farrell’s advice for now is simple: “If you can’t do it yourself, join a CSA or neighborhood garden. It’s best if it’s in walking distance.” Filmmaker Amy Kalafa, one of the “two angry moms” in the documentary about school food, is also a writer, certified health coach and organic gardener. She has two daughters and lives in Weston with her husband, dogs, cat and their flock of laying hens. Her new book, Lunch Wars (Tarcher Penguin), is due out in August 2011.

04.2011

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