The HVADC Cultivator
Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance
Founded in 2017, the Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance (HVFFA) is a coalition of next-generation farmers looking to continue a way of life and return to their family farms; sharing the bonds of their common passion and the struggles linking them,as well as a like-minded approach to farming. The HVFFA was developed to provide support and assistance to its members, a collective voice and a pipeline to their local community. The HVFFA is a group of farmers and natural resource-focused entrepreneurs in the southern Harlem Valley, whose mission states that farming, food production, agrarian living and related outdoor activities can be a growing source of well-being and economic development for today, as well as future generations. HVFFA is a true cooperative, with each member promoting each other’s food, farming and related businesses, assisting each other with whatever work needs doing, sharing and exchanging resources, and advocating for practices, policies and programs that can allow food, farming and related businesses to thrive in the Harlem Valley. Set within the Hudson Valley, The Harlem Valley is loosely defined as an area of Dutchess County tucked away in the foothills of the Berkshire and Taconic Mountains, and nestled between the Taconic Parkway and Route 22 corridors.
Current HVFFA members are J.S.K. Cattle Company LLC, Locust Hill Market and Hoofprint Cheese Company in Millbrook, Soukup Farms and Brookby Farm Store and Dairy in Dover Plains, and Harlem Valley Homestead in Wingdale.
“The creation of HVFFA has been great for us,” said Heather Kading, owner of J.S.K. Cattle Company, who explained the group is a robust one that meets monthly, or more frequently for event planning, such as their annual Farm Day in which guests can visit up to six different HVFFA farms to learn more about operations, do farm tours, see demonstrations, enjoy free food samples and participate in farm events. Guests who visit five out of the six are rewarded with a free HVFFA bag. The group also offers a shared calendar of events on their websites for members to list and promote their businesses’ events. Dutchess Tourism, Inc. has given HVFFA its Family Fun Award of Distinction.
“It's nice having a group of like-minded farmers to discuss marketing, growing our businesses, issues that come up on the farm, etc. We are all working together to educate our community on what is available here and why it is important to support local farms. Some of us have the same products- for example us and Locust Hill both raise pasty poultry. If I have a customer come in looking for chicken breasts and I am out, I can send them to Locust Hill. Or when people are looking for vegetables or raw milk... it’s an easy referral and it improves our customer service by providing our customers with that information. There are other farm stores out there that wouldn’t do that. It never fails that some issues come up on the farm- like a tractor breaking down while making hay. It’s nice to be able to reach out to friends and get the help you need so you can keep doing what you need to do to make a living.”
Kading said that HVFFA was born from discussions between Mark Soukup of Soukup Farms, Will Vincent of Brookby Dairy and Josh Viertel of Harlem Valley Homestead. “They presented the idea of the group and we all thought it was great,” said Kading. “It took a little while, but we decided on a name and a logo and we have all been working together since then.” Kading is participating in the 2018-2019 class of the HVADC Farm and Food Funding Accelerator program, while Soukup was a member of the 2016-2017 class.
“The best part about our group is that we work together to promote one another and offer complimentary products,” said Jennifer Soukup of Soukup Farms. “Each farm in the group provides something different so we are able to showcase each farm individually as well as suggesting combinations. Farms in the group are family owned and either working toward or currently generating all of their yearly income from their farm and products sold. We have had significant interest from many neighboring businesses, and we are working on finding an appropriate place for them in the group, especially if they do not have a physical presence such as a farm store/stand or facility that the public may visit.”
One could also find the Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance at the Dover Farmer's Market this season. The group says it pooled one of our most valuable resources –“time”- and created a Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance booth that is staffed by one HVFFA member every week, collectively selling products from all of the HVFFA farms such as farm fresh meats, vegetables, cheeses and syrups.
The group also supports each other through exchanging and sharing Facebook posts, and the Alliance’s page may be found at https://www.facebook.com/HarlemValleyFarmandFoodAlliance/
For more information about HVFFA, please visit www.harlemvalleyfarmandfoodalliance.com
Logo source: Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance
Photo source: JSK Cattle Company, Soukup Farms