Artist Update: Going Local with Sky High Farm

Artist Dan Colen is keeping his hands busy during New York’s quarantine, not just with his paint brush but as the owner of Sky High, his farm dedicated to food security.

Dan Colen

Portrait by Lexi Smith.

“My house, studio and farm are all on one property on the border of Columbia and Dutchess counties in New York. For the last few weeks, although I’m still painting, much of my energy has been focused on my farm. This work seems more urgent than ever with so many more people than usual facing food insecurity, and specifically a lack of nutritious diet options.

Sky High Farm is committed to addressing food security by improving access to fresh, nutritious food for New Yorkers living in underserved communities by sustainably growing fresh fruits and vegetables and raising livestock for the exclusive purpose of donation. We work closely with Food Bank For New York City and Northeast Regional New York Food Bank, as well as many other local nonprofits. We magnify our impact through our summer internship program, which trains new farmers and builds relationships with prison gardens through the Bard Prison Initiative to give tutorials and lessons to inmates. We also collaborate with workers’ justice advocates to help inform farm workers of their rights, and with farm owners to help educate them about their obligations to both documented and undocumented workers. We have a backpack program at the local public school through which children take home a bag of fresh produce to their families.

Sky High is committed to regenerative farming to help mitigate climate change. This includes carbon sequestering, soil improvement/conservation, watershed protection and biodiversity enhancement. Along with our usual production in our vegetable garden, fruit orchards and pasture-raised cows, pigs, lamb and poultry, this season we are experimenting with a few varieties of grain in one of the fields that is not currently being used for vegetables.

While most wheat is now produced in the western United States, New York’s Hudson Valley was historically considered the country’s breadbasket.

We are focusing our efforts on heritage grains, such as red fife wheat, streaker oats, emmer wheat, and einkorn wheat, which often require less inputs and have substantial root systems to enrich the soil. We are also growing more modern varieties for comparison.

We look forward to learning from this first experimental season and expanding the practice to the rest of our fields.


For more on Colen‘s work head here