Pay Dirt: Westchester's Working Farms
Our county is more than just the manicured lawns and perfectly sculpted hedges of suburban paradise: There are approximately 8,600 acres of farmland in Westchester. What follows is a pictorial essay about five different farms, each with its own unique story.
Photographs & text by Leslie Long
Hemlock Hill Farm
Rolling green hills offer prime grazing for about 80 head of cattle. The meat is processed on-site to Hemlock Hill’s exacting standards, then sold at its store and at other select restaurants and markets.
In 1939, Nicholas DeMaria, who’d moved north from the Bronx in search of affordable land, established this 120-acre family farm. Today, his son John and granddaughter Laura oversee the operations. Pasture-raised meats are their specialty, including Black Angus cattle, Dorset lamb, Yorkshire and Berkshire hogs, and Barred Rock chickens. Shop at their store any day year-round or stop by for once-a-month events through October — with barbecue, beer, music, farm tours, and more.
Above:Just-laid eggs line the shelves, along with produce and other products from local farms and purveyors. Below: An array of pasture-raised meats are sold at Hemlock Hill’s Farm Market & Store, open daily. Shop for steaks, roasts, chops, and unusual cuts not readily found at the supermarket.
Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center
Farm Educator Margaret Wilder points out an elusive goat to curious kindergarteners from Brookside Elementary School. The class also learned about butterflies and bees, examined the farm’s many crops, and visited with well-tended-to chickens, goats, and cows.
Hilltop Hanover Farm & Environmental Center is dedicated to preserving and teaching small-scale farming techniques. This nonprofit hosts local school groups, giving kids an enlightening glimpse into organic farming. Hilltop Hanover is also open to the public with flower gardens, picnic areas, u-pick vegetables, and miles of woodland trails.
Above: As a former dairy farm dating back to the 1600s,Hilltop Hanover looks like it belongs on the pages of an old-fashioned storybook. Visit its seasonal farm stand, overflowing with plants, produce, and locally sourced products. Below: Cocoa, Cricket, and Clover are rare Dutch Belted cows — only 1,000 exist worldwide, with one-third of those in the US — who often greet visitors at the entrance.
Pound Ridge Organics
“Comical,” “chatty,” and “calming” are some of the words Simons uses to describe her chickens. Each of her more than 50 beloved birds has a name. Here, she shows off Chickie Chick, a Silver Laced Polish crested.
If knowing where your food comes from is important to you, connect with Donna Simons, who sources the best of the best for the many participants in her Pound Ridge Organics food co-op. Whether its illness recovery, family autism, or the desire to consume local, affordable, clean, organic foods that leads you to her once-a-week pick-up, this micro-farm is a rare find.
Above: Garlic shoots reach for the sun in the raised beds at Pound Ridge Organic. When co-op participants pick up orders, they enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, plus tailored advice and helpful suggestions. Below: Food co-op members (just $50 gets you in the fold) order online and non-members can shop at the farm store, where multi-hued eggs from Simons’ approximately 15 breeds are for sale, alongside other products that meet her discerning standards.
Snow Hill Farm
Established in 2004, Snow Hill’s fruit trees and farm buildings make for a pastoral landscape. Each year, school groups from the city come to learn about organic farming and experience the outdoors.
The mission at Snow Hill Organic Farm is to bring fresh and healthful food to the community by scrupulously practicing organic farming techniques. Another top priority is keeping the farm’s nearly 140 spectacular acres of gardens, woodlands, and pastures in healthy condition for generations to come. Owner Laura O’Donohue is as passionate about compost as she is about her animals, gardens, and farm products — making for a farm that impressively checks off all the boxes.
Above: Along the Titicus River, this busy beehive is doing the behind-the-scenes work for the farm’s seasonal wildflower honey, sold online
and in nearby specialty stores.
Above: Like these young lambs, all of Snow Hill’s hormone-free animals are raised on certified organic pastures. In addition to pasture-raised lamb, all-natural Berkshire pork, and Registered Angus Beef, the farm cultivates a variety of vegetables and herbs. Below: On a warm, sunny afternoon, a Berkshire pig heads out of the barn for a stroll with one of the piglets from her new litter.
Alpacas are gentle, curious creatures with thick fleece that gets sheared once a year and woven into buttery yarn. Here, Shakti, a rose gray alpaca, takes a moment to reflect on her surroundings.
Leda Blumberg and Steve Cole are the owners of the magical Faraway Farm. Blumberg grew up on this beautiful, rolling property, where she and Cole breed and care for 24 charming alpacas. The farm is used for photo shoots (looking for unique engagement photos that will surely stand out on social media?) along with special events — and visitors are welcome by appointment.
Above: With copious fields to roam and relax on, the alpacas lead an idyllic existence. As cute from the back as they are from the front, the end of the day means an enthusiastic return to the barn, along with a nutritious meal. Below: Faraway Farm has a shop to purchase yarn spun from their alpacas’ fleece (each skein is identified with the individual animal’s name). They also carry alpaca garments, rugs, toys, and interesting handmade items.
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