Mission, Who, & Practices

About

Mission

Founded in 2014 by millennial first-generation farmers who met through the international WWOOF network, Unadilla Community Farm is an off-grid organic fruit & vegetable farm and non-profit permaculture education center, situated on 12 beautiful acres of field and forest in West Edmeston, in central New York State. The Unadilla River, which runs alongside our farm, gets its name from the indigenous Oneidan word for “a meeting place.” And at its very core, Unadilla Community Farm is just that – a place for people to come together, learn valuable skills from one another, and celebrate our togetherness with each other and with the natural world. Our mission is to provide a space for the teaching and practice of sustainable skills.

This is what Unadilla Community Farm is all about, on the most basic level. The farm provides a space where we can pour our creative energies and manifest our common vision of a sustainable community free from the stresses of mainstream society, where we can participate in and learn about an alternative way of life.

Unadilla Community Farm is more than an organic farm, it’s a place where we can all grow as individuals. It’s a place for sharing knowledge through the products we offer, and through events, workshops, and our internship program. It gives us the opportunity to put our skills into practice, to develop a way of life that resonates with our ideals. This way we’re always experimenting, always learning, and through our example we’re teaching others as well.

Sustainability is our common ideal, guiding us in all of our actions. It’s the ability to look beyond our immediate desires, to look deeper inside ourselves, farther into the future, and consider the long-term implications of our actions. Our main concern is the enduring well-being of everyone and everything on the planet. What our work is all about is developing and sharing skills that move us towards this ideal. Whether we’re developing skills related to off-grid homesteading, organic farming, natural building, artisanal crafts, or holistic health, sustainability is the common ideal.

Our work centers on providing education and training in sustainable agriculture, natural building, and food equity, and providing access to fresh organic produce for low-income and low-access communities.

We are showcasing a range of cutting-edge sustainable agriculture practices. Our off-grid center grows 200+ varieties of organic annual and perennial cold-hardy fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs. We are regenerating the land after decades of conventional monocropping, transforming an abandoned corn field into an edible food forest. As a center for sustainable education and a member of USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program and New York State’s Climate Resilient Farming Program, we showcase a diversity of USDA NRCS recommended conservation practices, such as rainwater collection, multi-story and alley cropping, no-till management, wildlife habitat planting, heavy mulching, on-site composting, crop rotation, and high tunnels.

Founded in 2014, Unadilla Community Farm Education Center Inc became incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2020.

Organic garlic interplanted in the permaculture orchard
Annual Reports
Nina Buxenbaum

Nina Buxenbaum

Nina Buxenbaum was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY to a politically active, multi-racial household. She received her MFA degree in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art and her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in drawing and printmaking. Ms. Buxenbaum has been an artist and educator for her entire career. First certified as a K-12 Art teacher in New York, she has been teaching at the college level since 2001. She is a Tenured Professor of Painting at York College, CUNY as well as a member, and current faculty, at The Silvermine Artist Guild in New Canaan, CT, and Adjunct Art Faculty at Western Connecticut State University. As an exhibiting professional artist Ms. Buxenbaum has participated in residencies at the Cité Interational des Artes in Paris, France, the Skowhegan School of Painting in Skowhegan Maine, The Artists Alliance in New York, the Byrdcliffe Artist In Residence, NY, The Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, and The Hambidge Center for The Arts in Rabin Gap, GA. Her work has been included in several exhibitions including the Studio Museum of Harlem (NYC, NY), Samson Projects (Boston, MA), the Kentler International Drawing Space (Brooklyn, NY), the Ingalls Gallery (Miami, FL), Rush Arts (NYC, NY), Stella Jones Gallery (New Orleans, LA), and Galerie Myrtis (Baltimore, MD). Her work has also been featured in the International Review of African American Art, and in an Emmy nominated documentary series entitled Shades of US. She and her husband, Roberto Zapata, have been building a Food Forest and hosting classes at their home and have begun a larger scale project at York College, in Jamaica, Queens.

Tianna Kennedy, Vice President

Tianna Kennedy, Vice President

Tianna Kennedy has been farming and organizing in the Catskills for a decade now. She is co-owner of Star Route Farm with Walter Riesen and owns and operates the 607 CSA, a multi-farm CSA, from the Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties. She also co-organizes with Bushel Collective to operate a mixed-use art space in Delhi, NY. Tianna founded the National Young Farmers Coalition's Greater Catskills Chapter and runs special ops with the Greenhorns to round out her (Agri)cultural undertakings.

Greta Zarro, President & Treasurer

Greta Zarro, President & Treasurer

Greta Zarro is the farm's Board President and Internship Coordinator. When she's not out in the field with the interns or teaching a class on grassroots organizing, you can find her checking the farm's inbox, writing grants, updating our website, and doing all things admin. Prior to joining Unadilla Community Farm, Greta worked and WWOOFed at organic farms and vegan retreat centers across North America. She also previously worked as New York Organizer for Food & Water Watch, campaigning on issues related to fracking, genetically engineered foods, climate change, and the corporate control of our common resources. In addition to her current work with Unadilla Community Farm, she is the Organizing Director for World BEYOND War, a global anti-war non-profit.

Bari Zeiger

Bari Zeiger

Bari Zeiger is a young farmer and community organizer. Currently, Bari is the Director of Development and Administration at Providence Farm Collective, a Western NY organization centering the actualization of immigrant and refugee food sovereignty through nurturing access to farmland and fresh, culturally relevant foods alongside peer-to-peer education. Bari is the Farmer Representative of NE SARE's Administrative Council, as well as a grant reviewer for the New England Grassroots Fund. She has participated on the National Young Farmers Coalition Ad Hoc Federal Policy Setting Process Committee and currently acts on the Federal Policy Committee as the Women Affinity Representative. Bari is a member of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s Board of Directors. While earning a degree in Philosophy and Environmental Studies at SUNY Geneseo, Bari interned on a local, certified organic family farm and engaged peers through organizing on-farm volunteer events and on-campus panel discussions related to sustainable food systems. In her final semester, she conducted a Directed Study on the role of structural violence in the U.S. migrant farm labor system, participated in grassroots activism as an ally for migrant dairy workers in Western NY, and co-founded the Student Coalition for Migrant Workers. After graduating in December 2016, Bari moved to the North Carolina Foothills to serve as an apprentice at A Way of Life Farm and was involved in all aspects of commercial, diversified vegetable, herb, and fruit production, as well as the silvopasture hog operation. Thereafter, Bari managed the farm at Frost Valley YMCA optimizing and expanding production, educational programs, and community relationships. In 2020, Bari began the process of building her own agricultural small business, Healing Poem Farm, in Java, NY, outside of the city of Buffalo.

Vic Ziminsky, Secretary

Vic Ziminsky, Secretary

A practitioner of permaculture and owner and manager of Let it Grow Landscapes, Vic Ziminsky creates and installs edible and ecological landscape design plans for community and home gardens. He became certified to practice permaculture design through the Center of Bioregional Living, in New York City. Let it Grow Landscapes is an Organic Landcare company, certified by NOFA-CT. Vic studies at the New York Botanical Gardens School of Horticulture and Landscape Design. He taught English in Chile and studied creative writing at Binghamton University. Vic has been practicing sustainable agriculture and permaculture, professionally as Let it Grow Landscapes, since 2014. Prior to that, with his family, he employed permaculture practices at their home garden. After becoming passionate about local, sustainable food production, he left a career in the financial industry to devote himself to caring for the land.and practiced farming, particularly as a volunteer for the Food Bank of Westchester. Currently, Vic works with individuals and organizations to better take care of nature, build community, and to realize a perennial return of bountiful food and beauty in our ecosystems.

Advisory Board

Roberto Zapata

Roberto Zapata

Roberto Zapata: “Unadilla, the home where my heart grew. You held my hand through a tough transformation. Thank you!” Born in Norwalk, CT, Roberto Zapata is a first generation son of Mayra, from Costa Rica, and the late Roberto Zapata Sr., from Colombia. At a very young age Roberto learned how to work with his hands. He has had a long history of wood working and construction. Roberto is a passionate builder, designer, and creator. He apprenticed with an arborist for three years. During this time he learned rigging, SRT climbing, and proper tree pruning. He has independently pursued the study of tree, plant, and mushroom medicines. In 2015 Roberto started a community garden project, Meadows Garden Pride, in the public housing complex where he lived. Through the use of Hügelkultur he created garden beds that required no tilling, fertilizing, or irrigation, thus eliminating many inputs. From 2017-2018 Roberto led campers ages 8-18, and adults of all ages, in foraging, plant identification, and medicinal plant harvesting classes at Holmes Camp & Retreat Center. In 2018 he earned his permaculture certification. Roberto desires to restore land to a place of abundance, not just for people, but for all living beings. Roberto embraces diversity, letting go of ego, and aspires for all people to understand that we all are part of this ecosystem; that Planet Earth, and all the siblings, are our responsibility. Roberto believes in freeing ourselves to begin healing, and surrounds himself with others looking to provide this healing work, and more, for the land. La Jolie Journet is a mobile community outreach program that Roberto, along with Nina Buxenbaum, are currently building, and invite all those interested to link up.

Staff

Ben Tyler, Project Manager

Ben Tyler, Project Manager

Ben Tyler is the farm's Project Manager. He has over a decade of experience in permaculture design, sustainable housing, organic farming, and community development projects. He has worked with local governments, NGOs, non-profits, organic farms, and intentional communities in North America, Latin America and Europe, and teaches permaculture design certification courses, natural building workshops and organic farming seminars. You can read more about Ben's previous natural building projects on his blog, Ben's Natural Building.

Greta Zarro, Internship Coordinator

Greta Zarro, Internship Coordinator

Through our holistic focus on teaching sustainable skills, we showcase a wide diversity of practices. Tying together all of these areas are: 1) ecological sustainability, meaning lessening our environmental footprint by growing food and producing goods in a way that enhances the natural ecosystem; 2) ethics, meaning producing or sourcing products in a way that upholds human and animal rights; and 3) accessibility, meaning showcasing farming, building, and other techniques that are easily transferable, replicable, and low-cost.

Agroforestry

At Unadilla Community Farm, we transformed a once-abandoned corn field into a 6-acre food forest. Agroforestry is the practice of intercropping perennial trees with other agricultural products. We grow a wide variety of perennial fruits, nuts, and berries, hardy to zone 4, using multi-story cropping techniques. These are intercropped with perennial herbs, mushrooms, and beneficial companion plants as well as annual vegetables in alley rows.

Food Preservation

With our short growing season here in the Northeast, food preservation is a critical skill. We teach a wide variety of preservation techniques, from water-bath canning, to fermentation, to passive solar dehydration, for preserving our fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs. These preservation techniques can be useful in a home kitchen setting, or as a building block for interns wishing to pursue a career path in value-added product production.

Organic Farming

Organic practices are an important underpinning for our work. These national standards provide a framework for farming in a way that is environmentally friendly and safe for consumers. From composting and crop rotation, to no-till bed preparation and integrated pest management, we teach a range of practices that meet and exceed organic certification standards, aiming at building soil health and enhancing the local ecosystem, while producing healthy fruits and veggies.

Appropriate Technology

In many ways, we are re-learning skills that have been lost with industrialization, but we are also pioneering new methods and showcasing new technologies when appropriate. Because we are entirely off-grid, we have set up multiple small-scale solar panel systems for generating electricity on site. This powers our irrigation pump and battery-powered landscaping and farming tools, as well as electronics like cell phones and laptops. Appropriate technology is designed to be accessible, efficient, and human-scale. Other examples of appropriate technology that we showcase include: passive solar building design for an attached greenhouse; a high tunnel for season extension; and rainwater collection for irrigation and carbon filtration for potable drinking water.

Foraging

Foraging is an important skill that we teach, to train interns in how to identify and sustainably harvest wild edible plants. From dandelion to red clover to lambsquarters, mushrooms, and more, our region is abundant with nutritious plants, commonly found at the forest's edge.

Permaculture Design

Permaculture, short for "permanent culture," is a set of design principles that combines many concepts like sustainability and closed-loop systems. We teach the implementation of permaculture at numerous levels, from farming techniques, to building practices, to community dynamics and interpersonal relationships. Unadilla Community Farm's Project Manager Ben Tyler is a certified Permaculture Design instructor.

Artisanal Crafts

Sustainability is a holistic approach for us that extends beyond farming and construction practices. We teach interns to examine all of the products they buy and find ways to source them more sustainably, ethically, and locally — ideally, that means producing it themselves either on the individual level or potentially for their communities. As part of our program, we teach how to make basic household and beauty care products, like soap and lotion, using organic ingredients that are non-toxic and biodegradable.

Natural Building

Natural building is a holistic approach to building that draws from regional, traditional skills and from modern advances. It's a return to natural materials with new insights in environmental sustainability and social justice. We teach a wide variety of natural building techniques, such as timber framing, straw bale construction, wattle and daub, cob, and lime masonry, with a particular focus on farm-specific infrastructure needs. We see natural building as an important step towards a happier, healthier, more sustainable future for all of us.

Plant-based Cooking

At Unadilla Community Farm, we promote a plant-based diet based on a healthy variety of farm-grown organic fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs, plus North American-grown organic whole grains and legumes. Plant-based eating is part of our holistic approach to sustainability, which recognizes the carbon footprint and health impacts of our dietary choices. Throughout our program, interns learn accessible recipes and kitchen skills to familiarize them with vegetarianism/veganism.