Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In the Fields and Pastures of Stone Barns

The other day I got a private tour of the gardens and pastures of Stone Barns with my former editor at House & Garden, Dominique Browning. It was a real treat to walk through the vegetable gardens with Jack Algiere, the farmer in charge. Stone Barns is famous for Dan Barber’s restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, but it is also an educational center and a non-profit farm.

At any given time they have six acres of fields planted and one acre of plantings in the greenhouses. As we started through the fields I saw rows of tomatoes, some 30 varieties. There were also rows of varieties of eggplants, peppers and potatoes. They were harvesting zucchini flowers for the restaurant while we were there, and Jack explained that everything is harvested by hand and all the vegetables are grown in a sustainable and organic way.

Then he took us to the rows of corn that he has been given a grant to grow from Anson Mills. Anson Mills is one of my favorite sources in Columbia, South Carolina. They produce heirloom grits, cornmeal, Carolina gold rice and various flours. The corn we were looking at was almost unknown here till they began to bring it back. The variety is called New England Eight Row Flint and is considered the best corn for polenta. He plants the corn in the traditional"three sisters" method along with several varieties of beans and squash.

We then went over to meet Craig Haney, who manages the livestock. They raise, pigs, sheep and chickens. They have Berkshire pigs, various varieties of chickens all used and sold at the restaurant and farm. I learned all about how they rotate the animals and how that whole process supports the land and in the end is sustainable. I also learned that they have a farmers market Wednesday, Friday and Saturday which was great news to me. You could go buy all their amazing products. They do have a few vendors come that sell cheese as well, but pretty much it is all their products.

We then had a wonderfully simple lunch that Dan prepared. A green gazpacho soup, a peach, tomato, and sliced zucchini flower salad, house cured bologna and soppresatta, and some cheeses. It was simple and delicious. We also had a selection of desserts. My favorite was the goat cheese sorbet with black and red raspberries. Following this we sampled a mulberry chocolate cake and a tanka bean ice cream that was really delicious.

What Stone Barns is doing here is really inspiring. There is so much to learn and take home to your own garden however small it may be. My only wish is that they might open another restaurant there that is more casual-- something that really just showed off food in the simplest way and was more affordable.

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591
Tel: 914 366 6200
Fax: 914 366 7905


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