NOTEWORTHY: Exploring a Working Example of Applied Idealism

News from the Noteworthy

Exploring a Working
Example of Applied Idealism

The Unadilla Community Farm in West Edmeston, established in 2014, is a nonprofit whose mission is providing space for the teaching and practice of sustainable skills in agriculture, natural building, and food equity.

The farm was an abandoned corn field, now transformed into an edible food forest. It grows 200 varieties of annual and perennial products, using sustainable techniques. It uses a diversity of 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.

For five months each year the farm hosts 30 to 40 interns, who pay nothing to learn the skills involved in climate-resilient farming and ecosystem stewardship through permaculture and no-till market gardening. But it’s not just about growing things. These future farmers get hands-on experience in dealing with infrastructure: how to build a “tiny house;” create a solar-powered system to bring irrigation water from its source; build and use a high tunnel; and manage waste. They learn to use easily replicable, transferable, and low-cost farming practices; to coexist and work with conventional agricultural businesses; and to manage finances on a start-up farm.

The six acres of intensively managed fruits and vegetables are incredibly productive. The farm intercrops perennial trees with a wide variety of perennial fruits, nuts, berries, herbs, mushrooms and beneficial companion plants, as well as annual vegetables in alley rows. Thus, the food forest: From treetop to the lowest ground level the plants are integrated into continuous rows abundant at every level.

The farm supports food equity by addressing low-income and low-access situations. Every week from June to October, it delivers veggie boxes to families in the Edmeston area, offered on a sliding scale. Starting at $0.00—no questions asked—families pay what they can afford. The farm provides the Edmeston Community Cupboard with free, fresh produce for 80 more boxes delivered to families weekly. The farm also donates regularly to the Cooperstown and Utica food pantries and the Sidney Central School District Farm to School Program. In 2021 alone the farm donated two tons of fresh organic produce to local food banks.

Many non-conventional farms operating on a shoestring have an ad-hoc, make-do appearance. Not so here. All the plant life is clearly thriving. All the structures are cleverly conceived and well built. Everything is designed to be purposeful and pleasing. This is due greatly to two of the remarkable people who make the farm go: Greta Zarro, board president and internship coordinator, who has worked at organic farms and vegan retreat centers across North America; and Ben Tyler, farm manager, who has worked with local governments, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and organic farms in North America, Latin America, and Europe.

A visit to Unadilla Community Farm is a powerful lesson in practices which enhance the life of the land. Learn more at

Authored by Sustainable Otsego. Since 2007 we have promoted ecologically sound practices – locally, regionally, and nationally. Our platform calls for sustainable living, economic independence and home rule. Visit us at or

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