This story originally appeared in the Produce Pages, a publication of Cornell Cooperative Extension's Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program, written by Elizabeth Higgins, Ag Business Extension Specialist.
One of Ulster County’s established CSA farm businesses in New Paltz, NY, Taliaferro Farms, is changing hands and will be farmed by Leah Munsey and Orlando Diaz as LO Farm at Taliaferro’s this year. Leah and Orlando have leased the farm from Pete and Robin Taliaferro and will be operating a farm-card CSA, the farm market and at two farmers markets.
The couple met as AmeriCorps volunteers in Montana. While in Montana they began working on a small organic farm and fell in love with farming. Work opportunities took them back to the East Coast, and after several twists and turns they ultimately found themselves working for several years as managers for Golden Earthworm Organic Farm in Long Island which serves NYC farmers markets and CSAs. Their dream was to own their own farm in the Hudson Valley, where Orlando grew up. They thus began the long process of moving from farm management to farm ownership. At one point several years ago they reached out to Pete Taliaferro, who had a rental ad on the Hudson Valley Farmland Finder, about purchasing his farm but Pete was looking for a renter and they were looking to buy. They then attempted to purchase a different property in Columbia County, but ultimately that deal fell through. They looked at other properties and in 2019 worked for MX Morningstar farm in Columbia County. Max suggested that they contact Pete again – and this time the stars aligned, and they entered into a lease agreement with Pete and Robin to rent Taliaferro Farm.
“The delays in finding land and starting our business, while frustrating at the time, probably have helped us in the long run” said Orlando. “We had the opportunity to work on many different farms and see different farming systems and management styles. We are also past the honeymoon phase of farming as we are both experienced farm managers, we have a good sense of how we want to farm, and we work well together.”
In addition to using the Hudson Valley Farmland Finder to find land, Leah and Orlando used a micro-grant program for technical assistance offered by American Farmland Trust to assist with the legal costs of developing a lease with Pete and Robin. “It was immensely helpful.” Leah said. They also spoke very highly of the support that Pete and Robin have given them as they have launched their own business. “Pete organized a CSA sign-up day for us during his Thanksgiving share pick-up in 2019, which allowed us to meet his existing customers.They [his former CSA members] have also been immensely supportive of us. It is heartwarming feeling that people want you to succeed.”
So what does the future hold for Lo Farm? Like Taliaferro Farm before them, they are committed to the CSA model and plan to continue to focus on creating a strong bond between their CSA members and the farm through opportunities on the farm that are only open to members, including U-Pick areas, and farm events. They are also planning to continue the farm market. Both Leah and Orlando also expressed a commitment to providing affordable food, particularly to economically disadvantaged communities.