Sun Sprout Farm is located on New York’s famous black dirt in Chester, NY. The land is being leased from the Chester Agricultural Center as one of several other projects managed by Northeast Farm Access (NEFA).
During the time of early settlement farmers generally avoided the black dirt areas for agricultural use because even though the soils were fertile, they frequently flooded during storms and drained poorly afterward.
The black dirt valley in Orange County is the bottom of an ancient glacial lake and consists of mostly decayed organic plant matter. It was not until the early 19th century that early German, Polish, and Dutch settlers saw similarities between these then-called “drowned lands” and some of the most fertile soils they knew from back home. They started draining the land by digging strategic ditches and canals all over the area and around every individual field. Today the area is home to hundreds of farms and, due to its close proximity to New York City, is an important food-shed for thousands of people.
Sun Sprout Farm is co-owned by Simon Ziegler and Madeleine Banulski who met in 2006 as volunteers at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills in Kimberton, PA, a living community that includes adults with developmental disabilities. Simon worked on the bio- dynamic dairy farm and Madeleine worked in the CSA garden, apple orchard and village cafe. After their two-year service, Simon returned to Germany in 2008 to study and obtain his bachelor’s degree in Organic Agriculture Science in Witzenhausen, Germany while Madeleine started going to nursing school in Philadelphia, PA. Simon came back to farm during his summer breaks every year, and worked on Riverbank Farm in Roxbury, CT with Madeleine as well as various CSA and community gardens in Philadelphia. Simon moved permanently from Germany to the US in 2011 and worked for six years as the field manager at Riverbank Farm, a fifteen-acre organic vegetable farm in Roxbury, CT.
We always dreamed of starting our own farm together. We have been in love with the Hudson Valley for a long time, and after several years of looking for the right place, found our destination in Chester, NY. Madeleine is a nurse and works on the farm part time while continuing her nursing career.
Together we are thankful that we are able to grow healthful, sustainable food for our customers and are looking forward to the many possibilities for Sun Sprout Farm to grow and expand in the future.
Rachel is originally from Colorado and received a degree from Colorado State University in Forestry with a concentration in Forest Biology. Directly after college she spent 2 years in Senegal, West Africa as an agroforestry extension agent for the Peace Corps. Following her girlfriend to Connecticut, she started an apprenticeship with Riverbank Farm where she immediately fell in love with farming. There she learned and acquired many skills and techniques that will help us with this upcoming season. After working alongside Simon for three years at Riverbank Farm she is very excited about this coming year at Sun Sprout Farm in Chester.
Originally from Chicago, Michelle's interest in plants took root in a horticulture class in college. Although majoring in English and Psychology, Michelle was fascinated by growing food and local, sustainable food systems. After college, Michelle joined AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, and was on a farming project in Washington where she realized that she wanted to pursue farming. From there, she started the apprenticeship program at Riverbank Farm and stayed there for three full seasons where she not only gained farming experience but also found the warmth of a farming community. Michelle is very excited to join the Sun Sprout Farm team in Chester, NY this year and to continue to grow clean and local food for our customers.