Meet the Finalists for the Food System Vision Prize/

Stone Barns Center: The R&D lab for an ecological food culture.

Hudson Valley, NY

Welcome to Hudson Valley, New York, year 2050.

Pruitt starts her day at home in Kingston, NY, drinking coffee brewed from beans crafted in the U.S. This specialty way of developing coffee beans is a breeding experiment she’s been following closely for years. Smiling to herself, she is reminded of the gallons of coffee that fueled her behind the line at the restaurant Blue Hill, back in her early days as a cook.

Her first stop today is to a partner farm with whom she works hand-in-glove to supply her restaurant. The farm specializes in Southeast Asian produce such as ginger, lemongrass, and galangal, along with 38 varieties of chili peppers for Pruitt’s hot sauces. Currently the team is testing out an heirloom Thai pepper specifically bred to retain flavor and nutrition in cold storage, which Pruitt hopes to use in her next line of sauces.

Are fresh NY-grown peppers in late fall and winter really possible? About 30 years ago this was a cook’s fantasy, but through innovations in cold storage, it’s become a reality.

Pruitt heads off to Hot Hands, the hot sauce R&D company and retail store that she started years ago. She leaves the new peppers with her culinary team and grabs a bottle of fermented ramp sauce to taste before reviewing her lecture notes one more time.

She is honored to have been asked to speak at the Culinary Institute of America about seed breeding for fermentation. Recently Pruitt has received several accolades as a champion of regionally and culturally relevant food across the globe. In her travels to Thailand, she has benefited from learning from the local food culture and has been able to help catalyze new innovations to keep Thai produce local.

After the class, she heads to her restaurant for the pre-shift meeting. A farmer from one of her partner farms is presenting the next crop rotation to the staff, and Pruitt’s head is full of ideas for the week’s menu.

The first diners walk into the restaurant. Having staked her claim as processor, producer, and preparer, Pruitt dons her apron with a smile.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hudson Valley’s food system was supporting independent farmers and chef-led restaurants across the region, but it remained beset by obstacles that prevented it from reaching its potential. Farmers were not encouraged or incentivized to adopt regenerative practices that focus on the needs of the soil and ecosystem; chefs had to compete on race-to-the-bottom pricing for valuable ingredients: and high prices for consumers meant that healthy, delicious food was out of reach for millions in the region.

The Vision for 2050 transforms the Hudson Valley food culture to one that responds to the needs of the community and provides accessible, delicious and nutritious food that is culturally relevant, while also supporting healthy soils and ecosystems and a thriving farming economy. In the Vision, farmers, chefs, and community members embrace a food system that combines modern science and innovation with respect for nature and biodiversity.

Hudson Valley is a national heritage region as designated by the United States Congress in 1996.  Located along the Hudson River in New York state, it is home to the Stone Barns Center, a beacon of culinary innovation and agricultural research and development.

Hudson Valley is one of the most diverse foodscapes on the planet, but its food movement lacks adequate recognition of the influence and traditions of local Indigenous, African, and immigrant communities. Diet, nutrition, and access to healthy foods are challenges that were exacerbated by the onset of Covid-19. High prices mean that nutritious food is out of reach for millions of community members, and more than 1 in 10 people across the region face food insecurity.

As the pandemic took hold in March 2020, chef-led restaurants were suddenly shuttered and regional independent farmers who had spent decades building up healthy soil and specialized produce saw their market wiped out overnight. These farmers were tilling crops under, culling animals in their fields, and dumping milk for lack of cold storage and transportation, while millions of people went hungry.

 

The Hudson Valley, New York Vision showcases how by the year 2050:

  • Groundbreaking research on ecologically sound farming and food production takes place within an interconnected web of Stone Barns Center Labs, and progress and learnings reach all stakeholders in the food system via data and storytelling.
  • Farmers have deep relationships with chefs and other local culinary and craft businesses, who design menus and products around the most important drivers of ecological agriculture: diversified grains and vegetables, cover crops, climate-adaptive perennials, and regeneratively grazed animals.
  • Regenerative farming is a common practice for small and medium-sized farms.
  • Hudson Valley families have access to an affordable and more nutritious local diet, improving health and building a stronger connection between the community and their environment.
  • An ecological food culture, supported and encouraged through market demand, has taken root in the Hudson Valley.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturn in 2020, Stone Barns launched ResourcED, a program to support Hudson Valley’s independent food movement during the crisis and beyond. The ResourcED program will help to power the Vision for 2050.

The Vision for Hudson Valley demonstrates that there is a need for a renewed food culture that is reflective of place, season, and community.  The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture has served as a training ground and a leading example of how farm and table can work hand-in-hand.

Click here to explore the full Vision for Hudson Valley in the year 2050.

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