Jun 1, 2019
The proprietors of Farmer and Baker in Middletown, Cristina and Carlos Garcia, are the kind of couple that likes to do everything together, but differently.
The proprietors of Farmer and Baker in Middletown, Cristina and Carlos Garcia, are the kind of couple that likes to do everything together, but differently. Carlos grew up in Venezuela, where Cristina moved to, from Italy, for school. They were both mechanical engineers, and both worked for Proctor and Gamble (Cristina as a Packaging Engineer in the Paper Division, and Carlos working with detergents and toothpastes). The couple moved to United States and both got Masters in Business Administrations degrees from Stamford University. Thereafter, they both worked in banking-- Carlos did mergers and acquisition and Cristina did syndicated loans—together, but separately, until their kids were born.
After kids were born, Carlos began to fatigue from his weekly international trek to Central America for his job, and so left his career in banking, and the couple bought Central Bakery in Hackensack, N.J., where they did mostly wholesale baking.
Around that same time, they also purchased land in Middletown, N.Y. with the dream of eventually farming it. “We bought it 10 years ago with the idea that once kids went off to college, we could have a farm,” said Cristina. For the years the Garcias were working at the Hackensack-based bakery, however, the land sat, waiting. The kids are now 17 and 18, allowing the Garcia family to launch their next iteration: the Farmer and Baker.
Their 27-acre farm, Kikiriwiki Farm (the name refers to a practical joke in Venezuelan vernacular) is a bit of everything, explained Cristina. Even though the land had not been used for many years, the Garcias have recently cultivated a small farm to include chickens, goats, pigs and bees, and Carlos has thoughts of raising fish in aquaponics and growing vegetables hydroponically. There was a robust tomato patch planted, until the farm’s goats infiltrated and demolished her tomatoes, Cristina mused, forcing her to replant.
“Carlos likes to experiment and try new things,” said Cristina. “It’s his hobby to be creative. He also does honey bees as well.” Though Carlos liked baking, wholesale baking meant high-volume production pressures and little room for originality.
Under construction in Middletown, Farmer and Baker will be a unique food market that will offer salads, sandwiches, quiches, pizza—all comprised of ingredients grown on Kikiriwiki Farm. The Garcias will be using the livestock they grow to cure and make sausages; bacon for the sandwiches—all value-added product—“not to sell the pork chop,” explained Cristina, but to have a sausage that would be a topping on the pizza. They will be using eggs from their own chickens, honey from their own apiary. “We are growing lettuce and making a salad. We are raising animals, curing the meats so we can have ham and sausage and smoke them… and I think that’s unique to us. We are going from having the pig to slicing the ham—everything done in house,” said Cristina. One of the few ingredients they will not be growing for their operation is grain, and so they will be using Wild Hive Farm grains produced locally in Dutchess County by locavore Don Lewis.
Cristina said she saw the new Middletown Revitalization Project revamp of the old Woolworth’s building on social media, and recognized it as a possible opportunity for Farmer and Baker. “The wholesale bakery was taking a lot of time and it wasn’t allowing Carlos to do what he wanted to do with his creative energy. This opportunity presented itself and it seemed like opening a bakery near our farm was more sustainable and that we could produce everything but the wheat.” So the dynamic duo pitched their idea to city of Middletown, and were one of the businesses winning the city’s Race 4 Space competition, and chosen for the Rail Trail Commons initiative.
The couple immediately went into production mode. “It was the perfect time to start the farm. We entered the Race 4 Space and started developing the farm.” The Garcias took a beginner farmers’ class with GrowNYC and laid the foundation for their dreams. Carlos is the baker and manages the livestock, while Cristina handles the vegetable production.
The Garcias sought expertise on how to manage the merge of the farm and market, and was connected to HVADC business consultant, Brian Zweig, owner of Business Opportunities Management Consulting in Rennselaer County through HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) program. “Working with [Zweig] has been very useful to decide plan of action, so HVADC has helped us prioritize and merge the bakery with the farm. The next project we would like to work with HVADC is working with NY Grown and Certified and become certified for food safety, like digging a well and obtaining the money through the state with grants.” Cristina said that the FFFA program lead to the farm’s most valued bounty yet, complimenting each of the program’s ag and business consultants, ranging from marketing to legal advice. “The greatest thing that came from it has been the information and the networking.”
“Middletown has so many different flavors among our food and our people,” said longtime Middletown mayor, Joe DeStefano. “Farmer and Baker will be a great nod to the historic nature of the former Woolworth’s building that was built in slower times when we put intention into everything on our plate. We are really looking forward to seeing this old world concept of raising and preparing all ingredients on a farm become actualized here in Middletown and hope folks enjoy the new destination that the Rail Trail Commons will become.”
The farm’s next project is a well and washing station, and Cristina was pleased to report that thanks to the FFFA program, she learned that the state could cover 90% of the expenditures for the otherwise costly project. For more information about Farmer and Baker, please visit https://farmerandbaker.org.
For more information about HVADC’s FFFA program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/farmand-food-funding-accelerator
Photo Source: Jennifer Bock (HVADC)