Sharon February 15th, 2008
Eric and I began Gleanings Farm in 2001, when we moved to a 27 acre property with an old farmhouse. The property had once been a sod farm, so the topsoil is badly stripped away. We live in an area of upstate NY, west of Albany, called “the hilltowns” so there wasn’t that much soil on our cold, steep, hilly, wet land to begin with.
We moved here because we wanted to farm and also combine resources with family, buying the place collaboratively with Eric’s grandparents, Inge and Cyril Woods. They have since passed on, but their memory lives on our farm. My children have never lived anywhere else.
For four years, we ran a CSA, mostly selling through our synagogue and delivering fresh vegetables, fresh baked challah bread, flowers and free range organic eggs to our customers. We closed the CSA when I got my first book contract, because I couldn’t do both, and from 2007 to early 2010, we mostly raised food for our own subsistence and barter with neighbors, food for food pantries, and pastured turkeys and chickens for sale. I wrote three books in 2 1/2 years, so the farm had to accomodate me.
Starting in 2010, however, we returned our energies to making the farm self-supporting. We didn’t want to go back to CSA farming – we’d loved it, but we were looking for a new project. So we are now raising Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats to help bring good, healthy milk to everyone’s backyard, pastured poultry, free range eggs, medicinal herbs, wetland and native plants for restoration areas, and vegetable, herb and flower starts to encourage as many people as possible to grow their own.
In addition we are raising our four boys, Eli, Simon, Isaiah and Asher, who at this writing (late summer 2010) are 10, 8, 6 and 4. They are integrally involved in our farm and its production and a driving force to ever increase the amount of both subsistence production of good, healthy food we do, and also the natural beauty, fertility and biological wealth of our farm.
Two basic principles drive all of our agricultural activities and all of our decisions here. The first is that our farm must operate well with minimal fossil fueled inputs and create as close to a closed system as possible. We do not want to take from our land, so much as we restore it. The second basic principle is that what we sell follows what we need and use and grow for ourselves – that is, instead of following the modern agribusiness model in which farmers sell their products to buy food at the store, we begin all of our production from meeting our own subsistence needs, and then reach out to the needs we see in our community.
Because we are Conservative Jews, our farm strives to observe the principles of our faith as well – leaving land fallow, feeding our animals before ourselves, practicing humane husbandry, leaving a portion of our fields to be gathered for the poor. The name “Gleanings Farm” comes from the Talmudic concepts of “Pe’ah” and “Leket” which are among the areas of agricultural production that belong to the poor, and that one is ordered to leave for others. It is a reminder that there is space both on our land and in our lives that is not fully our own, to recognize those corners of our lives where we can leave more behind than we have taken.