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RI Archives: Food

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Wild Hive Farm: Living the Locavore Life

Rural Intelligence FoodDon Lewis has raised the bar for anyone who wants to run a community-oriented small-town cafe serving locally grown food.  A baker who uses only Hudson Valley grains that he mills himself, Lewis has made his Wild Hive Farm Cafe and Bakery, which he opened last November in Clinton Corners, a paradigm of the Locavore Life. Lewis, who grew up on farm in Middletown, NY (which is the subject of a children’s book by his brother) has been making his living as a baker for decades. “I’ve been selling at the New York City greenmarket and other farmer’s markets since 1982,” he says. “About ten years ago, I found a farmer in the Hudson Valley who agreed to try growing grain for human consumption.”

Rural Intelligence FoodInitially, Lewis bought pre-milled flour from farmer Alton Earnhart in nearby Millbrook.  (Their collaboration was celebrated in a New York Times story in September.) “The first time I stuck my hand in it I realized it was entirely different than any flour I’d ever worked with,” he recalls.  In the beginning, only 8 percent of the flour he used was local. Now, 100 percent of the organic flour he uses is local and he mills it all himself (and you can buy bags of it to bake with yourself at his cafe/store.) Lewis started out as a beekeeper and his initial baking efforts were honey-based pastries. “My grandmother was a big influence,” he says.  Over the years, his repertoire has expanded to include sweet and savory baked goods ranging from onion rye and challah/brioche to Mediterranean spinach pie and rugulah that literally melts in your mouth. “We use our own yogurt cheese in the dough for the rugulah,” he says. “We only use local ingredients.” Everybody says that, but is it really possible? “Yes, we build the menu out of what’s available,” he says proudly. “We stick to the boundaries—I don’t like to call them limitations—and we have storehouses full of carrots, beets and watermelon radishes.” (His favorite winter salad is julienned watermelon radishes with salt, pepper and apple-cider vinegar.) For salad greens, he relies on three nearby farms: “Little Seed in Chatham has pea sprouts, Conuco in New Paltz has sunflower sprouts, and Sorkolo in HIghland has other lettuces.” Besides his own baked goods—including pizza and guilt-free cinnamon buns—he carries cheese from five local dairies as well as local eggs, apples, pears and dried beans. He plans to get a glass freezer for organic and grass-fed meat and become an old-fashioned, newfangled neighborhood grocer.

Although he has decades of experience as a greenmarket retailer, running a cafe and shop is a new challenge. “I love it,” he says. “I had known this space forever. It was once a general store and various cafes and I knew how much the town needed a gathering place. And I needed to expand my baking and milling operation so it all came together. The community is really excited by the regeneration of this space and they love being able to get a hot loaf of bread on their way home from work.”

Rural Intelligence Food
Wild Hive Farm Bakery & Cafe
2411 Salt Point Turnpike, Clinton Corners, NY; 845.266.5863

Tuesday - Sunday 8 AM - 5 PM (cafe closes at 4 PM)
Full breakfast and lunch menu Friday - Sunday; tea, coffee, baked goods, soups and salads Tuesday - Thursday

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 03/05/09 at 10:51 AM • Permalink