Rock Steady Farm & Flowers turns four this week -- four months old that is! As a PFP alum it feels particularly special to share the news of my new farm with all of you!
I apprenticed at PFP, under farmers Asher and Wendy, for two transformative seasons in 2010 and 2011. I moved on to manage Huguenot Street Farm for a few years, a 12 acre vegetable CSA in New Paltz. In need of some inspiration and a new challenge, I accepted the flower grower position at Sol Flower Farm in Millerton and built their cut flower operation from the ground up. Sol Flower decided to shift focus last fall, and the veggie grower and I were presented with the opportunity to purchase the equipment and CSA membership list. Not able to pass up the opportunity, I teamed up with two amazing human beings and highly skilled farmers, Maggie Cheney and D. Rooney, to start Rock Steady Farm & Flowers in Millerton!
Rock Steady Farm & Flowers is a vegetable and professional cut flower farm with a growing CSA membership, that sells to farmer’s markets, wholesale accounts locally and in NYC, and direct to brides and grooms who want DIY wedding flowers. We are a small farm with a big vision! We are deeply rooted in social justice and have a strong commitment to making sure all of our community members have access to the food we grow. In addition, we hope to create a cooperatively owned business that empowers its workers, provides stable employment and a living wage.
Part of what inspired me to take the big leap and start a farm was our ever expanding community of support, both here in Poughkeepsie (where my partner and I still live) and in Millerton. Getting Rock Steady Farm & Flowers off the ground isn’t just about us three owners working our tails off and pouring over budgets until wee hours of the night. It’s also about the people and organizations that have stepped in and stepped up because they believe in what we are trying to do in the community.
This winter and spring our CSA members stepped up in true ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ style. They stuck with us through the farm transition and their commitment allowed us to purchase our first seeds, to buy the first tank of propane for the greenhouse, and pay the electric bills. They helped bridge that gap, which literally made all the difference. Although I’ve been working on, and managing, CSA farms for many years, it’s been in the last few months that the power of a committed CSA has actually started to settle in.
As a start up farm, I’m particularly proud of the fact that Rock Steady has been able to launch our low income CSA share program in our first year, with the goal of serving 88 families in 2016. This was possible through two important non-profit partnerships. The first, started three years ago, and is sponsored by the North East Community Center. Through this partnership we will provide vegetable boxes to 70 families in the Millerton area. We are also actively fundraising with Neighbors Helping Neighbors and The Watershed Center, to expand our program to reach an additional 18 families in Ancramdale. Our goal is to raise $12K by May 1st. Learn more about our low income CSA program and how to donate here!
The Watershed Center (WC), is a social and environmental justice retreat center, that shares the farm property with us. The energy and community around the WC were a big draw in choosing to farm in Millerton. The founders and staff have been working with us from day one and we are excited to expand our impact through integrated programming. They introduced us to The Working World, a non-extractive investment fund that supports worker owned businesses, which provided Rock Steady with the financing needed to purchase equipment, infrastructure, supplies, and the working capital to run the farm. We’re proud to be the first business to receive a loan through their new “local community fund” that’s developing!!
With all of this community support, starting Rock Steady has been both an empowering and humbling experience. It calls me back to my time at the PFP as an apprentice - having so much to learn, relying so heavily on my mentors (yes, Asher is still on speed dial) and impatiently looking forward to the first harvest! What I learned at PFP, both in the fields and through my involvement with the sponsored share program, informs my work every single day. It’s grounding to carry forward the work of PFP, and I’m thrilled to have Rock Steady join the local network of individuals, organizations, and businesses that are committed to social and economic justice.
Follow Rock Steady’s adventures this season by following us on Instagram and Facebook, and visit our website to learn more about the farm and contribute to our low income CSA program!!
With much gratitude,