Black Owned Hudson Valley Farms Making Positive Change
As we celebrate Black History Month, Inside+Out honors the inspiring black-owned farms in the Hudson Valley that grow gorgeous, nutrient-rich crops with loving hands. They offer access to traditional wisdom within a supportive BIPOC community, provide fresh and healing foods and products in cities where many experience food apartheid and deserts, and serve the local rural communities around them. And that is just the beginning of this story.
We’re excited to highlight these farmers now and year-round. Their work and land stewardship reclaims an earth-connected way of life and an essential movement toward food sovereignty and justice. In addition to selling their wonderful locally-grown products, they offer educational classes and programming during the growing season. Many farms seek volunteers or employees and support for their inspiring non-profits. Please show your love, but always contact these lovely folks before you decide to drop by. Thanks!
Here is a list of notable Hudson Valley black-owned farms and wisdom keepers:
Soul Fire Farm | 1972 NY HWY 2, Petersburg, NY | @soulfirefarm
On their website Soul Food claims: “We use Afro-indigenous agroforestry, silvopasture, wildcrafting, polyculture and spiritual farming practices to regenerate 80 acres of mountainside land, producing fruits, plant medicine, pasture-raised livestock, honey, mushrooms, vegetables, and preserves for community provisioning, with the majority of the harvest provided to people living under food apartheid or impacted by state violence. Our ancestral farming practices increase topsoil depth, sequester soil carbon, and increase biodiversity. The buildings on the farm are hand-constructed, using local wood, adobe, straw bales, solar heat, and reclaimed materials.
Our food sovereignty programs reach over 50,000 people each year, including farmer training for Black and Brown growers, reparations and land return initiatives for northeast farmers, food justice workshops for urban youth, home gardens for city-dwellers living under food apartheid, doorstep harvest delivery for food insecure households, and systems and policy education for public decision-makers.”
Here is Soul Fire’s list of “Six Important Ways to Gently and Sustainably Care for the Land”:
- No-till soil preparation. Instead of rototilling to remove weeds and aerate the soil, we use heavy mulches to smother the weeds and encourage the worms to do the aeration. This method helps keep carbon in the soil where it belongs, rather than releasing it into the air.
- Never leave the soil bare. Just as Dr. George Washington Carver recommended, we use cover crops like peas, oats, and buckwheat to protect the soil from erosion and add essential nutrients.
- Produce as much on-site fertility as possible by composting manure from our livestock and crop residues. Cleopatra knew the value of the earthworm in creating compost and took great measures to encourage their proliferation. Women farmers in Ghana and Liberia produced “African Dark Earth” by combining ash and residue. We emulate these practices to enrich our soils with organic matter and nutrients.
- Polyculture integrates dozens of crops into each section. Modeled after the Haitian “jaden lakou,” we intersperse fruit trees among mint, bee balm, chamomile and other medicines. In our “milpa” we learn from the Mohican farmers, who are the original stewards of this land, about the integration of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers.
- Raised beds control water flow and increase crop root depth. Just as the Ovambo people have mounded their soils for centuries, we too grow all of our crops in raised beds. Our heavy clay soils rely on the pathways for drainage and the raised growing areas reduce compaction.
- Silvopasture integrates trees and pasture for livestock and is among the top solutions for climate healing in “Drawdown.” Like sheep, which are experts at surviving on native grasses and forage, we raise small ruminants with minimal purchased feed. Our silvopasture system includes sugar maples and chestnuts integrated into the fields to provide shade, food, and windbreaks for the animals.”
WILDSEED | 636 Rudd Pond Rd, Millerton, NY | @sweetfreedomfarm
Community Farm & Healing Village is a Black and Brown-led intentional community, ecological farm, and healing sanctuary focused on transformative justice, earth stewardship and intergenerational responsibility. We are a collective of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color working in collaboration with our ancestors to steward 181 acres in the Mid-Hudson Valley. We are co-creating a healing sanctuary, ecological farm, and political and creative home rooted in dignity, interdependence, transformative justice, connection to nature and intergenerational love.” They also provide affordable housing & short term below-market rentals for families and individuals as well as ”Honor and uplift the work of Sweet Freedom Farm, our beautiful comrades (including WILDSEED co-founder Jalal Sabur & Rites of Passage co-coordinator Antonia Estela Perez) who are growing vegetables, grains, and herbs on WILDSEED land to distribute to communities with little to no access to fresh farm produce through Brooklyn Packers and the BRIDGE program, and to incarcerated folks and their families that are a part of the Victory Bus Project. Learn more and support their “Grow Food Not Prisons” campaign.
Additionally, they are “Partnering with NuLegacy to provide formerly incarcerated, system-involved and young urban BIPOC as well as LGBTQI+ community with hands-on farming & growing experience, camping trips, and Human Justice-informed healing circles. These efforts led by Chino Hardin, a transgender activist and member of the Blackfoot Indian Nation, who has studied nature-connected and holistic approaches to community grieving and restorative justice. Chino and his sons, Chino Jr and Krishna, are in residence in the Moon House for a year.”
Rise & Root Farm | 168 Meadow Ave, Chester, NY | @riseandrootfarm
Located in the Black Dirt region of Orange County, NY, in the lower Hudson Valley, Rise & Root Farm is a five-acre farm run cooperatively by four owners who are women, intergenerational, multi-racial, and LGBTQ The farm is rooted in social justice, and they build a more equitable food system through the healing power of food and farming. “We are blessed to steward the land we grow on and to have the opportunity to support our communities through farming. We invite people, especially from the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, to visit the farm through various events and find a welcoming agricultural space.”
Martha Stewart Magazine had this to say about Karen Washington, one of the four owners of Rise & Root Farm: “As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens and New York City Community Garden Coalition, Karen Washington worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. In 2014, she opened Rise & Root Farm in Chester, New York, where she continues to work with community gardens and urban farms in New York City and beyond to cultivate a stronger, healthier local food economy.”
Harmony Homestead & Wholeness Center | Copake, NY | @harmonyhomesteadwholeness
“Harmony Homestead & Wholeness Center exists to facilitate racial harmony and reparations to members of the underserved global majority; this is done by utilizing support groups, reconnecting with Nature, sustainably growing and preserving food, preserving and practicing indigenous wisdom, and fostering cross-cultural allies. We are doing the slow, steady work within our hearts, our communities, and by divine grace to unveil the wholeness of this interconnected Earth. [–] We come from a line of African and Choctaw prayer warriors, farmers, entrepreneurs, and sharecroppers in Mississippi and the Carolinas. Our humble experiences include restorative justice, youth mentorship, social work, Reiki, fine arts, education, software development, homesteading, beekeeping, gardening, raising chickens, fermenting, preserving food, meditation, recreation, and multicultural training. Although we are classically educated, we have learned the most by digging in deep, one handful at a time, and doing the work right in front of us.” https://www.soulfirefarm.org/
Harmony also distributes free food, herbs and flowers to families in Berkshire, Albany, Columbia, and Schenectady counties. They are committed to a robust reforestation program on their land, and offers “land love” that includes “prayerful gardening and farming, mindful walking, singing to the Earth.
Gullybean Farm | Hudson Valley, NY | @gullybean
This black-owned farm is focused primarily on growing hemp, restorative justice and agricultural education for the black community. Their mission is to connect communities and the land by supporting BIPOC farmers working together to build new collaborative systems through education and knowledge-sharing
From their website: Founded by a collective of farmers, nutritionists, and purpose-driven entrepreneurs of color, we grow plants simply and sustainably in New York’s Hudson Valley. All our ingredients are organic and fair trade whenever possible with an emphasis on supporting regenerative farming practices. On their site they go on to explain how “a gully bean is a small, bitter berry that grows on abandoned lands and gutters—called “gullies”—in Jamaica. It’s considered a local panacea with several health benefits. Gullybean honors this history and the heritage of our founder and farmer and reflects our belief in growing plants and investing in overlooked communities.” Gullybean generously donates 5% percent of all sales to help support an ecosystem of urban farms and food justice organizations that serve nutritious veggies, fruits, and herbs to communities of color in New York City.
Damian Fagon, the founder of Gullybean farm in Hudson Valley, has another goal: “To get the BIPOC community excited about farming again.”By 2019 the farm had produced a significant harvest, as well as inspired many family and community members to jump into the farming experience, partly out of necessity: Gullybean’s black dirt had yielded 15,000 hemp plants across 10 acres, with each plant weighing between 10 to 15 pounds. Fagon leaned on friends, family, and hired help to cut down the six-foot-tall plants. Fagon fondly remembers calling in a cousin from his Jamaican side who lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. Armed with machetes, the pair plowed by hand the same way that his father and ancestors did back in Clarendon,” wrote Deirdre Dyer for Vogue back in 2021.
Pureworldshop.com reported this about Fagon, “Paired with the benefits of hemp, Fagon also realized this could be a cash crop for his community and a way to give back and stimulate the economy in an organic and sustainable way.”
Ever Growing Farm | 115 Union Center Road, Ulster Park, NY | @evergrowingfamilyfarm
Where African Farmers Test Traditions in NY Climate. Gambia native Nfamara Badjie grows rice in the Hudson Valley using centuries-old, West African techniques of the Jola people. Cornell rice expert Erika Styger has been working with Badjie to study which Jola rice techniques work best in the Northeast.
Ever-Growing Family Farm is family-owned and operated by Nfamara Badjie, his wife Dawn, cousin Moustapha Diedhiou who is from the Jola tribe in Senegal, and son Malick. Additional support is provided by their children, grandchildren and an extended “family” of friends and volunteers.” Malick is now also growing on a larger swath of land in Kerhonkson.
“We grow specialty heritage varieties of rice from around the world utilizing organic principles, informed by traditional African rice-farming traditions. In the Nfamara family, at the end of harvest they weigh the rice and give 10 percent away to people in need. In keeping with tradition, we send 10 percent of our profit to feed folks in Africa. Our mission is to expand and improve our production, cultivate community, educate and further local food security. Yearly, Ever-Growing Family Farm hosts rice transplant and harvest community events. Additionally, student groups, young and old, visit for hands-on workshops. We are committed to Agri-Cultural education–that is teaching about rice cultivation and sharing the traditional Jola methods and culture.”