Local Food, Local Learning

Researchers from Cornell University plant test plots of wheat, barley and rye at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.


Whether you dream of being a farmer one day or you’re already a farmer with hopes of expanding your business, many plots from coast to coast are being converted into teaching and research centers that can help you achieve your agricultural aspirations.

In the northeast, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub is one such place—and as its organizers gear up for the launch of its professional farming training program slated to begin in the next year, the model just might inspire similar projects across the country.

“There’s a lot that’s developing right now, and this is what we would say is our second transition year,” says Brooke Pickering-Cole, manager of community relations for the Local Economies Project, the nonprofit that operates the Farm Hub. “We’re trying to create something new here. There really isn’t a road map for this project.”

The Farm Hub, located on the former Gill Farm, one of the area’s oldest and most storied farmlands, is shifting from a family farm operation to a new role as an education center, with sustainable agriculture experts from the region helping to shape the Hub’s curriculum.

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Pickering-Cole says the Hub will focus the training program on mid-sized farms and develop a curriculum that focuses on mid-scale operations and aspiring farmers, as well as experienced farmers who are “looking to scale up.”

“There are a lot of people who are interested in becoming farmers,” says Pickering-Cole. “There’s a huge potential in the marketplace. Everybody is clamoring for local food. We have to put those pieces together.”

She also notes that the $20 million set aside in the recently passed New York state budget for farmland protection funding opens up a world of opportunities for these hopeful farmers. 

“There are a lot of people who are interested in becoming farmers,” says Pickering-Cole. “There’s a huge potential in the marketplace. Everybody is clamoring for local food. We have to put those pieces together.”

“We’re really excited about that, because that’s going to allow not only existing farmers to stay on their land, but also allow for transfer opportunities to help new farmers purchase those properties,” says Pickering-Cole.

The Farm Hub is looking to bring on its first participants for the training and education program in 2016. Meanwhile, several research programs have been initiated, as well as land management, an ecological restoration plan, and a management plan for the Esopus Creek, which runs the length of the Hub. A research project around climate change is also being developed, and the farm stand on the property reopens June 17.

Pickering-Cole says the participant pool for the Hub’s education program will either be local to the Hudson Valley region between Albany and Westchester or could consist of those who may not be currently living in the valley but ultimately plan to. This commitment to the region is a reflection of its potential for “supply and demand in New York City, which is a very vibrant market,” as well as its solidified role as an important food producer in the greater northeast.

“We’re trying to build up the food system in the Hudson Valley…but we also see this as having a greater ripple effect nationally,” says Pickering-Cole. “Perhaps this will be a model that can be replicated elsewhere. We have our eye on the globe, but we’re trying to focus on this particular region.”

Local Food, Local Learning