Dave Llewellyn is the Director of Farm Stewardship at Glynwood, a non-profit organization supporting food and farming professionals across New York's Hudson Valley. To realize their mission, Glynwood provides career training for farmers and fosters a regional food culture that is closely tied to farming. Dave develops Glynwood's farmer training curriculum and workshops, plays a major role in connecting regional farmers to land access opportunities and helps to ensure Glynwood's standing as a leader among the national efforts to train beginning farmers.
Prior to his current role, Dave served as Glynwood's Director of Farmer Training and, before that, he led the group's CSA production. Read on to learn what inspires Dave, the advice he has for high school and college students interested in a career in farming and how Glynwood is responding to the challenge that climate change poses to agriculture in the Hudson Valley.
Tell us about your role and how you got involved in Glynwood?
As Glynwood's Director of Farm Stewardship. I work closely with the Glynwood agricultural team and collaborative partners to define and shape protocol for resilient, regenerative practices. I train new farmers and coordinate numerous learning opportunities for our program participants and regional farmers, such as advanced farm skills workshops, field trips and master classes with agricultural professionals. I also connect regional farmers to land access opportunities.
Glynwood's Dave Llewellyn demonstrating soil testing. He is joined by an apprentice.
I got involved at Glynwood in 2008 as the CSA Manager. I grew the vegetable operation from a quarter acre to five acres, which today serves more than 150 area families, and started our farm apprentice program, which trains six apprentices each year. I shifted to a more programmatic role in 2012 to formalize the apprentice program with a full year of classroom curriculum, in addition to hands-on training. Beginning in 2014, I played a key role in developing and launching Glynwood's Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator in New Paltz, New York.
What will it take for farming to thrive in the Hudson Valley?
Regional farming will strengthen when more farmers see strong business management as an equally important part of their path to sustainability. Many new farmers get involved with sustainable agriculture because it resonates with them philosophically. They are environmentalists, they like the connection to the natural world. They are drawn to the demanding, tactile work, but, if I may generalize, they didn't get into this because they like business planning.
Climate change is a major focus right now for a variety of reasons. How would you characterize the challenge that climate change poses to agriculture in the Hudson Valley?
Climate change brings uncertainty in weather patterns, which puts agricultural production at risk. Crops and forage are at risk when conditions are dry or wet, hot or cold. With climate change, we get some or all of these weather patterns in a season, in any order. Farmers need to build resilience because we have to be ready for all of the above.
At Glynwood, we encourage farmers to manage for soil health, which leads to greater resilience in variable conditions. Healthy soils store more water and drain better. They also support the microbiology in the soil, which supports our plants.
True indicators of soil health need to be more comprehensive than what you can learn from a standard soil chemistry analysis. In contrast, Cornell's Soil Health Analysis provides comprehensive information on everything from soil's biological composition to its physical makeup, and of course, the chemical indicators of soil health. Also, when you manage your farm for soil health, you can maximize your soil's potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon.
We are increasing educational opportunities in soil health for regional farmers through a SARE Partnership Grant, which supports pasture improvement demonstrations, a Soil Health Field Day on August 23rd and numerous conference workshops.
We also promote minimal tillage, a way of preparing fields for production while minimizing the damaging effects to soil. We do this by eschewing the use of a moldboard plow, which inverts soil, and rototillers, which pulverize the soil. We find that a chisel plow, disk harrow and field cultivators can get the field prep done to our satisfaction, while preserving soil structure and microbial communities.
Throughout all of these efforts, not only are we learning ourselves, but we are also training the apprentices, incubating businesses, and working with other area farmers with whom we partner.
Glynwood vegetable crew harvesting produce for CSA members. Photo by Eva Deitch.
What does agriculture mean to communities throughout the Hudson Valley?
People in the Hudson Valley have a strong sense of place. They adore the views, the hiking, the food and the landscape. Agriculture is an important part of the landscape. It's not taken for granted. People here understand that they need to support their local farms and they enjoy spending time on the farm because it helps them feel connected to the natural world.
What do you find to be your biggest source of inspiration from day-to-day?
I am inspired by the spirit of the regional food system; it's such a hopeful thing to contribute to. I am especially moved by new farmers because they bring so much passion.
What advice do you have for high school and college students interested in a career in farming or within the environmental field?
If they want to experience a season on a farm, they might look up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in their area to see if they need help on their harvest crew.
If they want a more educational opportunity, they will need to do their homework. Ask around about a good place to learn. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office and ask them for recommendations. If there's a farm in your area that you are interested in, you might talk to their farm manager, interns or apprentices to get informed about opportunities.