Ten Minutes with Annie Farrell – A master farmer at millstone farm
Annie Farrell’s father was an NYPD detective and her mother was a “Lord & Taylor lady.” A fan of all creatures great and small, Farrell grew up with “a turtle pen, a snake pen, birds, and every critter I was allowed.” The family spent weekends at their lakeside home in North Salem, surrounded by farmland, and Farrell spent all of her time outdoors. She even rode her tricycle to a nearby farm where she learned how to milk a cow. Her ambition was always to be a farmer. In adulthood, she realized her dream—and then some.
How did you become a farmer? As soon as I was able, I bought land in upstate Bovina, NY. I built a stone house and raised my kids there. We raised what we ate. I learned farming from the old-timers that were still there. They farmed without chemicals or large machinery. Their wisdom was invaluable. They respected the land and the environment upon which their food and lifestyles depended on. Nothing was wasted. They shared what they knew with me.
What was your business at the time? I developed an Agricultural Co-op, which led me to start a business that introduced organically grown specialty products in the NYC Markets. I sold the business and became the Director of CADE, (Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship), where I helped develop the Watershed Agricultural Council—now the model for Watershed Preservation globally.
And then? I was invited back to Westchester to help with Cabbage Hill farm, a 225-acre farm in Mt. Kisco. During my ten years there, I designed and built an Aquaponic system, (before the word existed), and developed and demonstrated techniques for farming that preserved the future, including importing many types of rare breeds now seen all over the US. I went on to help develop several more farms, and also wrote the concept paper for David Rockefeller for what became Stone Barn farm and restaurant.
How did you end up at Millstone Farm in Wilton? I met Betsy and Jesse Fink when they were about to purchase the property in 2005. I signed on to help them develop their Whole Farm Plan, using Best Management Practices. I had a hand in virtually every aspect of the farming, from record keeping to cleaning out the barn, building gardens, deliveries—you name it, I did it. We helped raise awareness about the importance of local food and land conservation. In 2016 the farm was sold, and I stayed on for the transition.
You have designed and consulted on farm and land use projects for Martha Stewart, Willie Nelson, and Dave Matthews. I have been fortunate to work for some well-known people, which has given me a platform to share the message. Working with Farm Aid has been great.
Why is buying from a CSA important? It’s the best way to get produce directly to the consumer and to plan crops, so you can grow what is needed, and not waste time, space, and energy growing what no one wants.
What are you most proud of? My files from the past 40 years are being archived at NYU Fales Special Collection Library.
How can individuals help the environment? Stop wasting! Stop using plastic bags and never buy plastic water bottles.