Alternative Farming, Alternative Store

This article was originally published in The Millerton News, a New York State newspaper, in August 2015.

Republished with permission, copyright The Lakeville Journal Company, LLC, 2015.


Christine Pizzuti and Kevin Ferry of Olde Forge Farms in Wassaic, NY.

Christine Pizzuti and Kevin Ferry of Olde Forge Farms in Wassaic, NY.

Though Olde Forge Farms has operated locally since 2013, its role as a hamlet food source is expanding with a stand outside Cousin’s Mini Mart at 3887 Route 22.

The Olde Forge Farm Store officially opened last fall through the holidays, but the endurance test is now with its first full season in service.

Background

Kevin Ferry, a trained organic and sustainable aquaponics farmer, started his business as an outdoor vegetable and poultry production on Old Forge Road in Wingdale in 2009.

At the same time roughly 15 miles north, The Wassaic Project arts organization was in its infancy. Ferry saw an opportunity to be a part of that.

“At the time I couldn’t increase production [in Wingdale],” the farmer said during an interview with The Millerton News. So, a deal was made with The Wassaic Project and construction began for a greenhouse outside Luther Barn.

“Wassaic had the site for a greenhouse with hook-ups for water and electric,” he added.

Specifically, the site could accommodate Ferry’s vision for aquaponics production: a conservative method of raising fish in water that’s recirculated to simultaneously grow plants hydroponically — that is, also in water.

In 2013, after also acquiring a nearby 16-acre field for traditional farming, Olde Forge completed the move.

That’s not all that expanded that year, as ownership became a partnership when Ferry’s girlfriend, Christine Pizzuti, came aboard.

“The move has been tremendous for the farm,” Ferry said. “The Wassaic Project has been really nice to have.”

In fact, The Wassaic Project and Olde Forge have formed quite a cooperation, with artists in residence ordering products via chalkboard outside the greenhouse to be delivered by dinner time.

Those products may include pasture-raised birds (quail, turkeys, chickens), eggs (from those birds, geese and ducks), pork, field vegetables like Brussels sprouts and squash, fresh trout and various greens grown either aquaponically or hydroponically.

The farm is immersed even further in The Wassaic Project culture, Pizzuti noted, as artists have taken inspiration from Olde Forge’s emu, Mother, and others have been sighted filming the pigs.

“It’s nice to see how interactive the farm has been to the residents” Ferry said.

The farm also sources ingredients for The Lantern Inn’s meals.

The Farm Stand

The sense of immersion and cooperation is a theme Olde Forge is finding further in the greater community since constructing and opening its farm stand.

Landowners Tony and Vicky Robustelli initiated that, allowing Ferry and Pizzuti to build on the property — which they did most days after work into the wee hours last summer.

“The Robustellis are really supportive, we wouldn’t be able to exist without them,” Ferry said.

The plaza environment has been kind to Olde Forge; customers at Cousin’s have become customers at the farm stand. The farmers even have an Olde Forge trivia team at The Dugout on Tuesday nights.

“This town and the other people in this town are really great,” Ferry said. The couple lives in Wassaic just 200 yards from their greenhouse. “I think it’s because we’re off the beaten path — there’s a sense to look out for each other.”

What customers experience at the Olde Forge Farm Store is unlike any regular shopping process. With Ferry on the farm and Pizzuti at her day job as a public relations manager for a nonprofit, there’s nobody at the stand to conduct trade. The business model is trust — an honor system.

A self-serve cash box is accessible during open hours, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Products are restocked daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

The owners noted last fall went without any trouble. This season, however, there has been some theft.

Ferry said the farm is more than eager to help if a family’s in need or can’t pay at a certain time, but plain theft defeats the purpose of the honor system.

Products are not limited to Olde Forge crops — in fact, they range far beyond.

“Our purpose is to get our vegetable and meat products ready for the community and showcase local vendors during the week,” Ferry said, noting many regional colleagues only have Saturday farmers markets to sell their goods.

Externally sourced items include jams from The Canning Jar in Millbrook, granola from WholeyOats in Wingdale, honey from Remsburger Honey & Maple in Pleasant Valley, fudge from Just About Fudge in Fishkill, maple syrup from Aberdeen Farm in Staatsburg, artisan pastas from Northern Farmhouse Pasta in Roscoe and organic dog treats from Coast to Coast Dog Treats in Stormville.

Pizzuti said the overall goal of the Olde Forge Farm Store is to increase visibility for the farm and provide a place for its community to shop.

“We absolutely love it and we’re really proud with where it’s going,” she said.

For more information on the farm and its store, go to www.oldeforgefarms.com.


APPENDIX (not published in The Millerton News):

The Old Forge Farm Store moved into the hamlet center, between The Lantern Inn and Calsi’s General Store, on Aug. 30, 2015. It’s new address is 29 Main Street, Wassaic.

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