How Dutchess County Destinations Strive for Sustainability
Date Published: April 22, 2022
It's Earth Day, and we're recognizing local businesses, farms and makers that have gone above and beyond in their commitment to combat climate change. Small, actionable steps taken by individuals can spark a huge impact in the community. Hopefully, awareness of sustainable practices encourages others to get involved and do their part in protecting the environment. These Dutchess County destinations are reducing emissions and promoting eco-friendly methods through innovative sustainability initiatives.
One of the best known bakeries in the Hudson Valley, Bread Alone’s Rhinebeck cafe is nestled in the heart of town. The nearly four decade-old brand has signed-on to the 100% Committed Campaign. This initiative is helmed by the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit founded by former Vice President Al Gore. To clarify, with this initiative Bread Alone’s team commits to sourcing 100% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
In house, they compost food waste and donate leftover breads and other bakes to farmers, soup kitchens and other charitable organizations. 1% of bakery revenue goes to supporting green solutions. Bread Alone is a member of 1% For the Planet, which unites businesses across the globe to tackle ecological issues together. Last but not least, many of the goods served at the cafe are baked at Bread Alone’s carbon-neutral bakery in the Catskills. For more information, click here.
Eastern Dutchess County hosts several beautiful farms dedicated to preserving and nurturing the land. Harlem Valley Homestead in Wingdale seeks to restore the deep connections between people and the land through convivial open-air meals, educational workshops and more. Woodlot pigs raised in the forest feed by foraging, thinning the understudy and eating up invasive plant species. The team implements rotational grazing for grass-fed cattle. This sustainable practice reserves one portion of pasture for grazing at a time, while the rest of the land rests. Happy cows improve pasture biodiversity by distributing nutrients, sequestering carbon and improving soil health.
Harlem Valley Homestead also regularly cultivates cover crops, raises honeybees and other pollinators and uses fertilizer from their own animals. Their upcoming building project—which will include new accommodations—converts old buildings into energy-efficient structures made from sustainably sourced materials. For more information on experiences at the farm, click here.
Dutchess County is the perfect destination to visit for a rejuvenating vacation. For instance, The Omega Institute for Holistic Living in Rhinebeck presents meals made from local ingredients, instruction in yoga, tai chi, and meditation, kayaking, soothing gardens and many other resources. The Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) developed an award-winning building that showcases ways to protect our climate through innovation and design. The Eco Machine™ utilizes the power of nature to recycle all of Omega’s wastewater into clean water. Snails, fungi, bacteria, algae and a plethora of plants all contribute to this living filtration system. Further, this process uses zero net energy and is completely chemical free. For upcoming events and educational programs, click here.
The team at Farmers and Chefs turned farm-to-table dining on its side—literally. Owner John Lekic found new ways to grow fresh ingredients for his restaurant during the pandemic. The Vertical Field container grows sustainable produce, ranging from arugula and Russian kale to rosemary, Thai basil and more. 20-ft in size, this unit divides the space into four fields of gardens along the walls. This high-tech vertical farming tool is one of the first of its kind in the Hudson Valley. Eventually, the system’s LED lights will be powered by solar panels. For this eatery’s satisfying menus, click here.
Greig Farm is a bucolic Dutchess destination to visit for pick-your-own fruits and veggies, eclectic markets and adorable goats. In addition, the Red Hook site houses The O Zone Sustainability Center in a charming red barn. This bulk-refill market strives to spark action in the fight against climate change. Barrels of shampoo, conditioner, dish soap and other essential liquids. Bulk storage limits single-use materials, in turn reducing unnecessary waste. Further, everything touts organic, ethically-sourced and vegan status.
In a similar vein, find recycled toilet paper, high-quality metal razors, cotton reusable bags and other items to help you live greener. A Community Compost CSA takes food scraps from businesses and residents alike in Northern Dutchess and provides them with compost for their gardens every season. Pick strawberries, blueberries and more throughout warm-weather months. For more information, click here.
Eliminating food waste and packaging waste is essential. Rural Center Refillery in Pine Plains is a bulk refill store where customers can do their part to cut back on consumption. Shop at this sustainable store for high-quality niche brands, and fill up on everything from nuts, grains, and candy to soaps, toothpaste, skincare and much more. Support this recently-opened store for bulk refills, eco-friendly goods and products with reusable packaging. For a look at their products and process, click here.
In Dutchess County, grain-to-glass beverage making is the norm. However, Branchwater Farms Distillery in Milan extends this philosophy further by implementing regenerative farming techniques. They do not till, and instead utilize ancient practices to restore vitality and nutrient density to the crops they grow. Plowing erodes topsoil, destroys nutrient-rich network of fungi beneath the soil and releases CO2. Cover crops continuously inhabit the fields and provide “green manure.” Other focuses like retaining water and fostering fungal expansion has rebuilt soil humus—the organic element of soil created by decomposing plant materials.
Above all, their goal is to put back as much into the land as they take from it. The choice to use heritage wheat, corn and other grains provides a greater complexity in the final spirits. Branchwater Farms craft a triple-distilled gin and several fruit brandies through these methods. They also use their own naturally soft well water for an extremely high-quality spirit. Visit the farm distillery for a tasting on weekends. For more information on their commitment to land stewardship, click here.
Plus, they are a stop on our Dutchess Tourism Taste Finder craft beverage passport. With this pass, you get free perks like tastings, tours, gear and more at a variety of breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries and more throughout Dutchess. To learn more about the experience, click here
Vassar College maintains a farm and ecological preserve just south of its stunning campus. Its mission: protect and preserve the ecological diversity of Dutchess County lands. Students and members of educational programs get hands-on experience working in the field. The same expansive property houses the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns, the Hudson Valley Corps of the Student Conservation Association, Community Gardens and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. In addition, athletic fields and cross country trails provide public green spaces. 415 acres contain wetlands, forest, streams and other habitats. Visitors can explore the preserve through a vast network of trails for biking, hiking and running. For more information, click here.
For fans of the arts, a visit to the Fisher Center at Bard is a must. The impressive architecture displays stunning design from the genius Frank Gehry. World-class classical orchestras, chamber choirs and jazz musicians perform inside. In addition, it’s a frequent site for opera, dance and live theatre performances. Did you know the building does not burn any fossil fuels? In addition, geothermal heat pumps provide the structure’s heat and air conditioning. A network of 150 wells power this system. For a full calendar of events at the Fisher Center at Bard, click here.
Nestled on 25 acres of land in Poughkeepsie, Plan Bee Farm Brewery is a scenic spot to enjoy a craft beer with local terroir. It is a shining example of a licensed New York State farm brewery, as 100% of their ingredients are grown within New York. In addition, Plan Bee cultivates hops, fruit and honey onsite for use in brewing. Using local or homegrown ingredients cuts down on transportation emissions and supports independent farmers. Past small-batch beers showcased unique ingredients such as hot peppers, strawberries, rainbow carrots, ginger and even pickles. The grounds are also home to goats, chickens and other farm animals. In addition, the bees they raise help pollinate Dutchess County flora. For more information on their selection of beers, click here.
Of course, one of the best parts of visiting Dutchess County farms is seeing all the cute animals! Hoener Farms is home to Icelandic and Baby Southdown sheep, pygmy goats, egg-laying hens and a Scottish Highland calf. However, it’s their furniture-making that truly embodies sustainability. They turn trees that were knocked over by storms or felled by pests (like the ash borer beetle) into elegant tables, chairs, charcuterie boards and an expansive line of homewares. In addition, Jordan and Max Hoener work with Hudson Valley lumber yards, tree companies and even homeowners to source wood that may otherwise go to waste.
Using traditional Japanese joinery techniques and a homemade sawmill, the couple craft incredible pieces they dub “full-circle furniture.” Visits to the farm are by-appointment, and stay tuned for woodworking workshops and events helping others get into agriculture at the ground level. For more information, click here.
Are you a tourism-related business in Dutchess using sustainable practices? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.