Educational farm serves meals, too
July 9, 2004
WHAT: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant.
WHEN: The center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. (914) 366-6200 or stonebarnscenter.org. Restaurant hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday; 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (914) 366-9600 or bluehillstonebarns.com.
WHERE: 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
HOW MUCH: The center is free. Restaurant prices range from $46 to $66; desserts cost $9.
As we strolled across the courtyard past cow stalls and towering stone silos, I imagined Peggy Rockefeller forking manure or bouncing around on a tractor.
"Peggy loved farming and was very hands-on," said our tour guide, Mirla Morrison, a retired history teacher whose passion for the Rockefellers was contagious. "She was world famous for her Simmental cattle - my husband and I even saw some of them in China."
Just in case our group wasn't sufficiently impressed, our guide had more.
"Peggy could jump in and perform a Caesarian on one of her cows if need be," Morrison said.
When Peggy Rockefeller died in 1996, her husband, David Rockefeller, looked for a way to celebrate her passion for the land. The result is the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture on 80 of the 4,000 acres at the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. After a $30 million renovation of the farm complex, built in Norman style by John D. Rockefeller in the 1930s, the center opened to the public in May.
It's a working farm that teaches visitors about land preservation and how to raise cattle and produce the natural way. Throughout the year, the non-profit center sponsors tours, seminars, and cooking classes led by horticultural, agricultural, and culinary experts. What's raised and grown on the farm is served in a wide selection of dishes in the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant occupying what was once a dairy.
In the past, it had been almost impossible to get a reservation, Morrison said.
But from now on, a reservation one month in advance for the new Rockefeller Life Estate Tour will guarantee a 5:45 p.m. restaurant reservation on the same day.
Visitors can wander the farm, where swine roam free in woods above the restaurant, and cattle, sheep, and chickens share grazing privileges on lush pastures. Fruit and vegetables grow in a 22,000-square-foot greenhouse, and herbs flourish in a garden outside the restaurant. When the farm begins producing more than the restaurant can use, the center will sponsor a weekly farmers' market.
"Besides plants, the only thing that goes into the ground here is manure," Morrison said. "This farm is completely free of pesticides."
If a tour of the organic farm doesn't convince you that natural is good, a hearty meal in the restaurant, sister to the Blue Hill establishment in Manhattan, will surely have you rushing home to plant seedlings. The dress code is elegant casual with a menu that's a little out of the ordinary. Patrons can create their own meal from categories that include Egg, Seafood, and Pasture Raised. Desserts include rhubarb soup and strawberry cannelloni.
Reservations for the Rockefeller Estate Life Tours and the accompanying reservation to the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant can be made by calling (914) 631-9491.