I turned forty-six last weekend and one of my birthday gifts to myself was the The Innovation Labs & The Farm Tour at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, in Tarrytown, New York. It was a fairy tale setting — a beautiful stone dairy (designed by Grosvenor Atterbury for the John D. Rockefeller estate in Kykuit in the 1930s, more recently reimagined by Guzy Architects) surrounded by fields of greens, fat sheep, and trees aflame with late autumn leaves. Very pastoral, but also very chic.
The tour was led by a Stone Barns farmer and Blue Hill (that’s the restaurant portion) cook and featured some small, but delicious bites including a beautiful sourdough rye bread from the bakery with steaming cups of liquid red miso (one of the fermentation department’s projects). The fields were still green with spinach, dill, and mature brassicas and the air was full of bees as the farmer discussed the importance of crop rotation in regenerative agriculture.
I enjoyed the nose-to-tail, farm-to-fork ethos—soaps from herbs and tallow, beautiful wool blankets, paper-thin china cups and plates made from the kitchen’s waste bones—very much, but I’m aware that much of this progressiveness and experimentation exists because of millions of dollars in assets, the backing of the Rockefeller family, and public’s enthusiastic consumption of happy farm stories. I question its sustainability and practicality while, at the same time, I’d pay to work there for a day.