Aug 1, 2022
Hudson Valley Farm Hub is a non-profit center for regenerative agriculture located on 1,500 acres of prime farmland in Hurley, NY.
Hudson Valley Farm Hub is a non-profit center for regenerative agriculture located on 1,500 acres of prime farmland in Hurley, NY. They provide professional farmer training, host and support agricultural research, and serve as an educational resource for advances in food and farming. HVADC has been an enthusiastic supporter and partner of the Farm Hub since its foundation.
This year, the Farm Hub took their research into the viability of expanded grain farming in the North East to the next level by launching Milestone Mill. The project is producing locally grown specialty grain, corn and bean products which are already for sale at the Kingston and Beacon farmers’ markets. For their first year of production, the Farm Hub is using grain from just their land and utilizing the mill at partner Wild Hive Farm in Clinton Corners. Next year however, Milestone will be taking a big step, installing their own milling equipment at the Farm Hub property and partnering with other growers across the region to mill grain, in an effort to greatly increase production. They are already also providing their sustainably produced, varietal specific grain to home chefs, brewers and some of the region’s best bakeries.
At the outset of this endeavor the Farm Hub reached out to HVADC to conduct a market study to support the feasibility of selling their product across the region to consumers and wholesale. HVADC recently delivered this important data to the Farm Hub. Through this technical assistance engagement, the Farm Hub learned current market is receptive to the products and mission of the mill. Milestone’s goal is to be more than just a new producer but to foster an equitable and ecologically resilient food system in the Hudson Valley around the increased viability of grain production.
“What we are doing is really a return to old traditional food ways mixed with new technology, said Sarah Brannen, Farm Hub Director of Regional and Community Food Initiatives. “All of these grains have been staple foods globally for thousands of years but have not been grown on a commercial scale in the Hudson Valley for hundreds of years.”
Currently Milestone Mill is offering bread and all-purpose flour in regular and whole wheat, whole grain Rye flower, black beans, pinto beans, corn meal and even tortillas and tortilla chips.
The market analysis performed by HVADC found that while overall national trends show grain consumption sloping downward, there is growing interest in whole-wheat, artisanal, specialty and culturally significant grain products. That is a good sign for Milestone, which services all of these niches. Currently, tortilla manufacturing is the fastest growing bakery product manufacturing industry, according to the analysis. This trend is another win for Milestone who incorporated tortilla production into their mission early on.
HVADC’s technical assistance also provided Milestone with specific regional and local economic figures, demographics and trends. Interviews with commercial bakers were conducted as well to provide a robust assessment of the market Milestone looks to enter and, eventually, transform.
“The Hudson Valley Farm Hub’s Milestone Mill is one of the most exciting projects in the region,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “The Hub has done the work to prove that there is plenty of interest and space in the Hudson Valley for their mill. They are laying the foundation for the return of a vital agricultural sector that can make the Hudson Valley more self sufficient, diversified, responsible and secure.”
The market report shows there is a hunger in the Hudson Valley for locally, responsibly grown grain. Consumers are willing to pay a little more to know they are maintaining the health of a dynamic and diverse local food system.
The Farm Hub was founded in 2013, and started their grain study the next growing season in 2014, in partnership with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension Ulster County, as well as Wild Hive, Bread Alone, Our Daily Bread, and other local grain-related businesses. Since then the farm has been testing different types of grain to see what grows best in the current regional environment and climate using sustainable and regenerative practices. Their findings now give farmers the confidence to grow these grains on their properties, diversifying existing portfolio, or starting a new operation.
Brannen said HVADC’s technical assistance gives Millstone confidence moving forward. She said that the biggest eye opener for their operation was that wholesale customers, like bakeries, care less about added cost than they do about reliability of delivery and consistency of quality.
Brannen says the challenge they now must meet, as they scale up production and start milling grain from their farm as well as others from around the region next year, is to offer flexibility to farmers testing a new crop while providing reliability to customers. She said the HVADC engagement helped them assess their goals and strategize knowledgably.
“HVADC are such great partners. Their role with the Farm Hub goes back to the first seed,” said Brannen. “They were advisors in the first Food Hub study. That project found people wanted access to local pastured meat, fresh cut produce, specialty dairy and grain. That set us off on the path to Milestone Mill, and HVADC has been integral all along the way.”
Brannen encourages anyone interested in Millstone and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub to visit them on the web or at the farmers market.
“There’s not a lot of transparency in the national food system and we are trying to restore that in the grain sector,” Brannen said.
To learn about the Business Technical Assistance resources such as research, available through HVADC, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls.
To learn more about Milestone Mill, visit www.milestonemill.com.