The HVADC Cultivator
Incubator Without Walls Client Spotlight - Letterbox Farm Collective
Situated on a hill with a breathtaking view of the Catskills, Letterbox Farm Collective in Hudson was founded in 2013 by Faith Gilbert, Laszlo Lazar and Nichki Carangelo. They started farming the land with a “handshake lease”, and after 2 years were able to buy the property using a combination of conservation easement funds, a mortgage from Farm Credit East, and "creative community financing" - short term loans from friends, family and community members.
While Faith, Laszlo and Nichki do not come from farming families, they had 7 years combined farm experience when they began the Collective. They raise mostly heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds of livestock. Berkshire hogs, rabbits, Freedom Ranger meat birds, a mix of heritage laying hen breeds that together lay "rainbow eggs," a custom rainbow salad mix, and over 150 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
In 2013 Letterbox took part in HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls (IWW) program, which provides business support to farmers in the crucial first years of establishing a farm business. Since the farm’s founding 4 years ago, they have gone from a half-acre market garden and one employee to a combined 13 acres in vegetables and pasture and a team of seven, comprised of the 3 owners and 4 employees.
"Letterbox has participated in the Incubator Without Walls program since our business began four years ago. Since then, we've relied on assistance from HVADC professionals to help us through exponential leaps in growth, from a hand-scale, half-acre market garden in 2013 to a fully diversified commercial farm employing a crew of 7 farmers and supplying a range of wholesale and retail customers across the Hudson Valley. We've grown by a magnitude of fourteen times in four years, and have benefited greatly from the business planning, financial planning, and professional development assistance we've received through HVADC. We are glad to count on HVADC as part of our resource team as we continue to grow and develop a financially, socially, and ecologically sustainable farm." – Faith Gilbert, Letterbox Farm Collective
Letterbox will be in their fifth season this year. Their produce and meat can be found at the Chappaqua, Bronxville and Rhinebeck farmers’ markets, and new this year, the Taste of NY farmers’ market at Todd Hill. Letterbox offers a full diet CSA comprised of vegetables, greens, herbs, eggs, pork, and chicken. One of their goals in starting a farm was to be diversified enough that they could provide a wide variety of foods to their members and thus offer a uniquely holistic eating experience. In addition to farmers’ markets and their CSA, Letterbox sells wholesale to local restaurants and a few small distributors. In 2016 they started growing flowers and a U-Pick garden.
While the growth of Letterbox Farm Collective in just 4 seasons is impressive, perhaps the most sure sign of their success is the fact that they were all able to take a vacation this past winter, and this season the team is robust enough to allow each member two days off per week. In the past they were happy if they had one day off, so they feel like they are really moving up in the world!
Supporting passionate and dedicated farmers like Letterbox and helping them reach their goals is what we do here at HVADC. Contact us and see how we can creatively work together to improve your business. HVADC strives to enhance the bottom line of farm businesses and strengthen the agricultural industry as a whole.