“Is it possible to think about gastronomy in ecological terms? That’s a challenge for Americans. We’re not the French or the Italians, or the Lebanese or the Taiwanese, for that matter, all of whose cuisines—and cultures—came out of a tradition of peasant farming. We don’t have a history of peasant farming. We have a history of bad farming. There’s this Jeffersonian notion of the yeoman farmer as the backbone of our country, and that we’re somehow a nation of yeoman farmers. It’s a bit of a farce. We never had a sustained tradition of great farming in this country. Never. So when older visitors come to Stone Barns and they meet the incredible vegetable farmer, Jack, they’ll invariably say, ‘Oh, you’re farming like my grandfather used to farm.’ No, we’re not. Their grandfather didn’t farm like this. Their grandfather probably exploited the great fertility that is American soil, dropped his plough, and then moved on to the Midwest and exploited it all over again. We have a nostalgic conception of good agriculture, a dangerous memory that shrouds the issue in confusion.
Stone Barns Center is not an attempt to re-create a Shaker village or a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s a relationship—farmers, chefs, educators—that is a replicable model for the future of good food. Where we want to look is to modern farmers using ecological intelligence, using free energy to produce food—grass converting the sun’s energy by photosynthesis into feed for an herbivore that we in turn eat.
That’s really brilliant farming, the most intelligent, space ship–type thinking. And it’s enormously productive, too. At the height of the last season, Stone Barns produced something like 28,000 pounds of food. That’s off of six and a half vegetable-production acres and 22 acres of pasture. That’s an average of a thousand pounds of food an acre—more than the typical Iowa cornfield, and about 50 times more flavorful.”
Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns