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Hawthorne Valley Open House previews Association's 40th anniversary

Nov 22, 2010 9:41 am

HARLEMVILLE — The Registar-Star in Hudson reports this morning that the Hawthorne Valley Association held an open house on Sunday, November 21, where visitors were informed of the various projects that the organization has undertaken over its years of operation, as well as its goals for the future and its ever-growing role in the community.

The Hawthorne Valley Association consists of several different bodies under its umbrella including Hawthorne Valley Farm (which includes a full-line organic grocery store), Hawthorne Valley School (an independent Waldorf school for kindergarten through 12th grade), the Visiting Students Program and Summer Camps and the Farmscape Ecology Program.

Hawthorne Valley Association Executive Director Martin Ping said the organization will celebrate its 40th anniversary as a legal entity on Feb. 11 of next year, and that July 2012 will mark 40 years since the founders of Hawthorne Valley purchased the Harlemville farm.

Helen Enright, business manager for Hawthorne Valley’s Visiting Students Program, said the Hawthorne Valley campus’ main house currently holds 33 children. She hopes for expansion in the future in order to accommodate more kids. She added that the organization would also like to incorporate more green building techniques, such as solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

More than 500 children participate in the Visiting Students Program every year.

Caroline Geisler, administrator and development director, said another future goal of Hawthorne Valley is to build a stronger connection with New York City children, particularly with the Children’s Storefront, a tuition-free school in Harlem serving pre-school through eighth grade where Geisler said 60 percent of the students’ families receive some sort of financial assistance.

Dr. Conrad Vispo, director of Hawthorne Valley’s Farmscape Ecology Program — the goal of which is to combine understandings of nature, agriculture and society, or to “try to help people in the county connect with the landscape,” said Vispo — presented visual representations of some of the projects undertaken by his department.

Some of the research ventures he’s spearheaded, in conjunction with Claudia Knab-Vispo, include the creation of a map of Columbia County’s flood plain forests; a study on native bees and their relationship with the ecology of the farm; a study on county residents’ access to food (accompanied by a map symbolizing how many people in each township own cars, and how far those people live from the nearest food source); and even a series of maps from the 1940s scanned and assembled to identify industry in Columbia County and how it relates to the topography.

Ping also showed tour attendants two new hoop houses built on the grounds which have salvaged much of Hawthorne Valley’s hay stock by sheltering it from the rain, as well as a solar greenhouse in the distance. Ping said he’d like to add one or two more solar greenhouses in the future.

Hawthorne Valley has an annual operation budget of about $10 million, Ping said, and the organization employs 150 people (80 of which work there full time). The association sells its products at the popular Greenmarket in New York City’s Union Square, at a similar farmers’ market in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, as well as at its own on-site farm store.

For more information on the Hawthorne Valley Association, visit hawthornevalleyassociation.org or call (518) 672-5118.

For more on this story in the Register Star, please click HERE.

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