Mansakenning Farm Stand Hits History, Agriculture And Other Hudson Valley Trademarks
The Mansakenning Mansion
Jennifer Flandreau and her farm stand.
The old roadside gas station, now the farm stand.
Try and guess which ones are gluten-free. Here's a hint: They all are.
Something never grows from nothing. What makes the Hudson Valley special are the ingredients in its pot. The rich stock of local history added to a prolific natural bounty, stirred up by folks as hard working as they are creative, often cooks up things, even little things, that leave us amazed. The Mansakenning Farm farm stand on Route 9, at the south end of Rhinebeck, New York, is one of those little things.
At first, the most surprising thing you’ll find at the open-air, self-serve stand, bedecked in strings of lights and topped with a flying pig, is the fact that it is open — now — in the stone-dead of winter. You are then further confounded by the sheer variety of offerings on display. There is always a large selection of gluten-free baked goods, fresh eggs, jarred pickles, sauces, jellies, maple syrup, in-season produce and whatever else Mansakenning Farm manager and Jackie-of-all-trades Jennifer Flandreau feels like making.
“If people are going to stop, I want them to always be able to at least find one thing they want,” said the modest Flandreau from beneath her cowboy hat.
It’s Flandreau’s baked goods that set this farm stand apart. The mother of five says it’s been fun and rewarding to get to bake every day and come up with new ideas, especially in the winter when there’s less work outside. Going gluten-free was Mansakenning’s owner Chris Lipscomb’s idea. Flandreau took the challenge and is making cookies and breads so delicious it’s impossible to tell they're GF.
The stand, which opened in June, isn’t actually on the farm. It’s on the front yard of Mike Juras’ place. His house and the previously long-abandoned stand were built in the 1920s. The clapboard shed had once been a gas station and a popular snack and ice cream stop. Juras said old-timers stop by from time to time now and get nostalgic seeing that the window board is lifted again.
Down the road from the stand and up the winding drive of a beautiful hidden estate is the magnificent and historic stone Mansakenning mansion. The main house, built in 1903, is a hidden jewel in the necklace of elegant manors that line the Hudson Valley. Sophie Langdon, who oversaw the construction of the house with her mother, was a part of the local high society ecosystem that was defined by the Livingston family and others like Margare “Daisy” Suckley at nearby Wilderstein (who worked for her aunt at Mansakenning for a period when she fell on hard times during the Depression).
When Lipscomb, the mansion's owner, who's president of a computer systems consulting firm, and wife Monique Segarra, a professor of environmental policy at Bard College, bought the home in 1999 it had been neglected for decades. It has now been saved and restored to much of its original glory, but Lipscomb jokes they’re 20 years into a 50-year project.
The lifelong preservation project the house represents was part of the original appeal to the English-born Lipscomb, who said the stewardship of historic buildings is in his cultural DNA. The other draw of the Mansakenning estate was that the couple and their now 19-year-old son could subsist as much as possible from food grown on their own land.
“For me, it was always important to make the place as sustainable as possible,” said Lipscomb. “But the farm stand was all Jen’s idea. She’s taken it to an amazing level.”
The farm that has always been a part of the history at Mansakenning was uniquely landscaped into the property, more like a large garden than rows in a field. The prolific berry bushes that line the driveway are both beautiful and fruitful, and the family taps maples throughout the surrounding woods for syrup. Flandreau admits, half joking, that meandering through the property isn’t the most efficient layout for harvesting.
Over the summer Flandreau had a bumper crop of zucchini. That turned it into a bumper crop of zucchini bread. When there was more than the family could eat she said to Lipscomb, “Why don’t we sell it at the road?” As simple as that and with a quick okay from Juras, a good idea turned into a successful little side business Flandreau says she has come to really enjoy (especially the baking).
The amount of widely varied work Flandreau is doing with such skill is undeniably impressive. But it’s more than that. Through her charming initiative, she has also become an integral piece of the living history of both the grand estate and the old working-class roadside stand.
The cute little Mansakenning Farm Stand, with its eggs and cookies and jams, is actually built upon a mountain of regionally significant historic, cultural, social, architectural and agricultural heritage and is well worth a visit and even some reflection. Then again, it wouldn’t mean a lick if Flandreau’s gluten-free zucchini bread weren’t so darn good.
6210 Rte. 9, Rhinebeck, New York
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