Monday, November 12 , 2018, 3:40 pm | Fair 74º

Here & There

Judy Crowell: Stone Barns Center & Blue Hill Quite a Pairing, Just Outside New York City

Former Rockefeller family estate gives visitors an up-close, hands-on experience with food and how it gets to our plates

The entry to the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, New York, a beautiful, 80-acre, nonprofit farm and education center about half an hour from Manhattan.
The entry to the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, New York, a beautiful, 80-acre, nonprofit farm and education center about half an hour from Manhattan. (Judy Crowell photo)

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Helping to change the way America eats and farms is a beautiful, 80-acre nonprofit farm and education center not far from Manhattan in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

Called the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, it was once part of the Rockefeller family estate.

Here great care is given to raising crops and livestock suited to the local ecosystem.

Geese, pigs, sheep, turkeys and chickens thrive on healthy pastures carefully managed by rotational grazing. The farm is a four-season growing operation, rotating its six-acre fields on a six-year cycle. 

No chemicals or pesticides are ever used in growing more than 200 varieties of produce year round.

This is a fabulous family destination, a hands-on experience for children and adults alike to learn about the food they eat and how it gets to their plates.

When Stone Barns first opened in 2004, anticipation was that weekend visitors would approximate in the dozens of numbers. Now, the center sees more than 150,000 visitors a year.

Weekend tickets are a must and may be purchased 60 days in advance. Click here for visitor information and to purchase tickets online.

You’ll want to spend the day there and participate in the numerous seasonal activities, such as Meet The Sheep; Beet Thinning; Pest-Making; Livestock Activity; and Egg Collecting, to name just a few. Limited numbers of visitors ensure an intimate and hands-on visit.

Spring lambs frolic at the Stone Barns Center. Click to view larger
Spring lambs frolic at the Stone Barns Center. (Ben Hider photo)

Located within the Stone Barns Center and utilizing all of its plants and livestock is the extraordinary, high-end restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns ... not to be confused with its New York City sister location.

Get a baby-sitter for the little ones. Don’t worry, they won’t starve. There’s a charming and casual Blue Hill Café & Grain Bar for lunch while visiting Stone Barns Center.

This is an expensive dining experience, but one I’ve yet to top. No menu ... instead, it’s called grazing, pecking and rooting, basically the nightly offering of the best from the field and market.

We ended up seated at the first-come, first-served bar and loved the leisurely course presentation. All this at less than half the cost of dining in the stunning dining room.

When our first course arrived, a selection of fresh crudités consisting of two teeny, tiny individual cherry tomatoes, a slice of cucumber, a mini-mini carrot and a sprig or two of romaine and/or escarole, I got the giggles. (A bad childhood habit I’ve yet to conquer.)

I thought this is either the silliest or most pretentious menu item I’ve ever seen ... until I tasted them and discovered the essence of fresh-from-the-ground vegetables.

Chef Dan Barber and his crew made this one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life.

As we were leaving, we passed the private dining room overlooking the herb garden, awash in candlelight and framed by fall vines of burnt orange and reds.

I promised myself then and there that I would return some day and experience this culinary wonder in the setting of the enchanting little alcove.

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture is located at 630 Bedford Road in Pocantico Hills, not quite an hour north of New York City. Click here for more information.

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

The high-end Blue Hill dining room, which utlizes plants and livestock from the Stone Barns Center. Click to view larger
The high-end Blue Hill dining room, which utlizes plants and livestock from the Stone Barns Center. (Judy Crowell photo)

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