Chester Agricultural Center
In 2014, a group of like-minded people came together with the mission to build an innovative model of organic farming. They started the Chester Agricultural Center with the goal of preserving Chester’s black dirt, converting it to organic growing practices, and providing affordable long-term leases to beginning-level farmers.
In 2017 the CAC began a process of transforming its mission and expanding its goals. In addition to addressing land access, the CAC is working to address regional farmer and farmworker issues, and re-develop with local stakeholders a thriving community.
Remaining mindful of the often tenuous financial viability of small- and mid-scale family farms, the CAC puts forth values and practices for farmer lessees that are intended to promote greater fairness and equity for farmworkers.
Many thanks to the original investors: The Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Michael Bruno, William Brown, Amanda Fuller, Dominik Eckenstein, and Doug Land.
For the last ten years, Beatrice Stern has served as President of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Inc., a family foundation located in Mountainville, NY. Her work at the Foundation has led her to become deeply involved in issues related to farmland preservation and food justice. Prior to taking on her position at the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, she was a full-time partner in Dillon & Stern, Architects and URBIO, S.A., architecture and planning firms in New York State and Panama. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College and a Masters of Architecture from Rice University. She serves on the Board of Trustees of both Storm King Art Center and Black Rock Forest, both located in Cornwall, New York.
Co-Owner, Rise & Root Farm
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to access fresh, locally grown food. Karen has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years, although in 2015 she began living part time in Orange County, NY near the farm. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she stood up and spoke out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Community Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors. She also co-founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. In 2012 Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country, and in 2014 she was awarded with the James Beard Leadership Award.
“To grow your own food gives you power and dignity. You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.” Karen Washington
Co-Owner of Halal Pastures
Samer Saleh is a Fixed Income veteran who has been in the industry for over 20 years. He helps manage a $1.5 Billion Pension Fund for United Church of Christ.
Along with his wife Diane Aboushi they founded, own and operate Halal Pastures Farm, a sustainable farm focusing on offering wholesome, earth conscious meat products. Samer also raises a flock of organic layers and grows organic vegetables on his farm in Orange County. His products are sold nationwide and can also be purchased at NYC Farmers Market on the Upper East Side.
Dr. Gabriela Pereyra
Co-Director Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, formerly at GrowNYC
Dr. Gabriela Pereyra is the Co-Director of NEFOC, a hybrid model land trust, bringing together a community land trust model and a conservation land trust model to reimagine land access as well as conservation and stewardship of communities and ecosystems with the goal of manifesting a community vision that uplifts global Indigenous, Black, and POC relationships with land, skills, and lifeways. Previously, Dr. Pereyra oversaw GrowNYC’s Beginning Farmer Program. In her role, she regularly assisted BIPOC farmers with land access opportunities and business creation. Dr. Pereyra is a guest facilitator at Soul Fire Farm’s BIPOC Farmer in Relationship with Earth training, as well as a Spanish-language trainer of agroecology production principles for farmworkers at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub. In the last two years, she has assisted directly in the creation of 16 farm businesses. As a Venezuelan immigrant, Dr. Pereyra is uniquely attuned to the needs of immigrant audiences. Before joining GrowNYC in 2017 she held a job at the Synergos Institute supporting agricultural development programs in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Mexico. In 2017 she managed three Greenmarket farmers markets that predominantly served Latinx immigrant farmers and Latinx neighborhoods. Dr. Pereyra holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central University of Venezuela, a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Hohenheim (Germany), and a Doctorate in Geosciences from Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Germany).
Jim is currently in his second term of the Ulster County Legislature where he represent District 17 – Town of New Paltz and a portion of Esopus. Jim is the Chair of Legislative Programs, Education and Community Services Committee. This committee sets policy and reviews contracts pertaining and related to: Arts, Ulster County Community College, Historian, Libraries, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Community Action, Office for the Aging, Youth Bureau, and Veterans Affairs. Jim is also a member of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee, which sets legislative policy and reviews contracts for all aspects of Economic Development, Tourism, and Planning. Jim also sits on the board of the Ulster County Trails Committee and Ulster County Soil and Water.
Jim has resided in New Paltz since 1987 where he lives with my wife Sophie. He has served on the New Paltz Clean Water and Open Space Protection Committee in addition to having served as its chair. During my tenure as chair, the Palmateer Farm was permanently protected with a conservation easement. Jim served on the Village of New Paltz’s Revolving Loan committee and is currently the Treasurer for the Millbrook Preserve.
After twenty years of employment as the Executive Director of the Community and Economic Development Office for the City of Newburgh, Jim retired from the position in 2000. For the last 13 years, he have held the position of Executive Director of the Orange County Land Trust, a county wide land conservation organization. As executive director, he has led the land trust’s efforts to protect close to 6,000 acres of agricultural lands and critical habitat. Current efforts by the land trust are focusing on protecting drinking watersheds for the Cities of Newburgh and Port Jervis.
Jim is a member of Orange County’s Agricultural Implementation Committee and an advisor to The Newburgh Urban Farm and Food Initiative (NUFFI), an active network of local residents and community organizations who take ownership of their neighborhoods by installing and caring for neighborhood community gardens.