Jul 1, 2021
Sam Rose is a farmer on a mission, or rather two missions.
Sam Rose is a farmer on a mission, or rather two missions. This spring in Red Hook, Dutchess County, Rose founded two farms at once, SunRunner Farm, growing organic heritage grain and Four Corners Community Farm, a future nonprofit with goals of growing community connections through agriculture, fighting food insecurity and providing a platform for ecology education.
At SunRunner, Rose is growing fields of small batch heritage grain on 150 acres using sustainable and regenerative practices. He is also undertaking the complex task of getting the farm certified organic and plans on donating ten to 15 percent of his yield to regional food pantries. Five other acres are carved out for Four Corners plots which are offered to the community to use to grow their own food.
“I’m a baker at home and I make all of our own bread. It’s surprisingly difficult to get heritage grain and it’s expensive,” Rose said. “Going organic and using the sustainable practices we do requires a lot of upfront cost and planning I don’t have experience with.”
Through the Incubator Without Walls program from Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) Rose worked with HVADC advisor Greg Mruk to build a business plan that met his goals and consulted with Thor Oechsner of Oechsner Farm in Newfield New York. Oechsner is a leader in the field of regenerative grain farming and has developed a growing system and crop rotation program that promotes ecological health and produces some of the best quality grain in the nation. While it’s more work, Rose is committed to following Oechsner’s example.
“When we heard what Sam wanted to do with SunRunner, we were happy to be able to help him get the business technical assistance he needed and connect him with Thor,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC deputy director. “At SunRunner, Sam is practicing what he is teaching the next generation of farmers at Four Corners. Sam is working harder than he has to, to make sure he does everything the right way for the land and the people in his community. It’s inspiring stuff.” Both farms are on the property of Frank Migliorelli, whose family has farmed here for generations, and Liza Parker. Both Migliorelli and Parker are enthusiastic cofounders of Four Corners. They had been looking to use a portion of their land to give back to the community and Rose’s plan was a perfect fit.
“Since we moved up here we have been looking for land. Then COVID hit, real estate took off and buying our own became impossible,” Rose said. “Through the American Farmland Trust I discovered Frank and Liza were trying to lease over 200 acres. It is a very special location. It’s flat, the soil is amazing - and they said they were looking to have a component that supported the community. It was perfect.”
On weekend mornings this summer, Rose can often be found in a work shed beside an old John Deere and a projector screen, teaching farming fundamentals and ecological science to groups of kids and aspiring farmers of all ages – in both English and Spanish. During this first year, the classes, like the plots are free but donations are greatly appreciated. The farm’s application for 501c3 nonprofit status is currently in the works.
Rose and his wife Cecilia Cortina moved to Red Hook in 2014, from La Paz (Baja California Sur) Mexico with their infant son, so Sam could take a job as the farm manager for the nonprofit Sky High Farm in Pine Plains, where he worked for six years. In coastal La Paz, Rose managed oceanic field days for scientists from the nearby universities- scuba diving, observing whales and taking samples. Rose and Cortina then founded an educational urban garden program Raíz De Fondo. With two community gardens, the nonprofit offers educational opportunities to increase the quality of life in its localities through community gardens, nutrition, the promotional of a sustainable life, community empowerment and resilience.
Though they’ve left Mexico, Rose and Cortina have maintained their commitment to supporting the Hispanic community around their new home, especially those involved in farm labor. Cortina works as a human trafficking survivor services advocate for the Worker Justice Center of New York and Rose has made sure that all written materials and in-person instructions at Four Corners are bilingual in English and Spanish. Four Corners hopes creating a safe space for multicultural interaction around food will help connect neighbors separated by language.
While HVADC helped Rose exclusively with his business plan for SunRunner Farm, his work to start up Four Corners is a much-appreciated new piece of the farm to pantry ecosystem HVADC and its community food rescue network FeedHV are working to cultivate throughout the valley. Rose is reserving one field to grow organic produce that he will donate to Red Hook Responds. The local nonprofit runs a food bank and soup kitchen, and is a regular donor to the FeedHV network of other agencies with food assistance programs.
To learn more about the business technical assistance services HVADC provides through Incubator Without walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls. Learn more about FeedHV at feedhv.org.