A Brief History

Stone Barns Center

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is the product of a collaborative agricultural and gastronomic experiment. Its seeds were planted in the 1990s by the Rockefeller family, together with conservation planners, organic farmers, chefs and many others who came together to set a common vision and purpose for the land.

Their goal was to make the beauty and agricultural heritage of the property accessible to the public in hopes of establishing a dynamic campus of farmers, chefs and educators working together to inspire and reconnect the local community to food and farming. They envisioned a place where people could experience the land, farming and an ecological food culture; a place that would bring inspiration and innovation to our regional food system, informed by creativity and experimentation.

Pocantico Hills is a naturally beautiful landscape that has a long history of agricultural stewardship by the Indigenous Wappinger and Lenape communities and later by Dutch colonists preceding the Rockefeller family’s arrival. The farm buildings that are home to Stone Barns Center were originally designed as a dairy, stables and farm complex in the 1930’s. In 2002 David Rockefeller, with the support of his family, donated the 80-acre property and began the restoration of the barns and landscape to form the nonprofit Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in partnership with his daughter Peggy Dulany, to honor the memory of his wife, Peggy Rockefeller—farmer and farmland preservationist.

Stone Barns Center’s founders invited Blue Hill, a Manhattan restaurant owned by Dan, David and Laureen Barber, to be Stone Barns Center’s onsite restaurant partner. Over the next two years, an advisory board of agricultural and culinary experts were assembled to envision the innovative and educational potential of the Center. As the ambitious restoration progressed, Jack Algiere was hired to establish the agricultural program upon recommendation by the legendary organic farmer Eliot Coleman. Through the development of a series of agricultural operations including the construction of the half-acre greenhouse, cultivation of vegetable fields and installation of the living, edible landscape, Algiere and a small group of farmers put into motion a diversified farming system focused on soil health, respect for farmers and ecological stewardship that continues to shine today.

Both Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and Blue Hill at Stone Barns opened their doors to the public in April 2004. The collaboration between a nonprofit education center and a restaurant is a uniquely rare and powerful partnership. Together, we set out to demonstrate the concept of an ecological food culture that is defined by a delicious and innovative cuisine—seasonal and regionally appropriate food grown and raised in harmony with the ecosystem of which the farm and artisans are a part.

In the two decades that have followed, our work has grown beyond an initial focus on delicious food and public awareness to include the interdisciplinary training of farmers, chefs and artisans that actively shapes an ecological food culture. We have expanded our multi-species grazing management program to include more than 400 acres of forest and grasslands in partnership with the Rockefeller State Park Preserve. This mutually beneficial relationship has established an ecological foundation that enriches our agricultural impact and inspires further innovation and experimentation in the field, kitchen and beyond.

The integrated partnerships with Blue Hill restaurant, Rockefeller State Park and a multitude of academic, institutional, expert and artisan collaborations have woven into a rich fabric of impactful initiatives and catalysts for food system change. Through research collaborations, workshops, conferences, convening and enjoyment, Stone Barns Center has shaped the landscape and provided a valuable platform that has only just begun to realize its potential to influence resilient and sustainable change in the food system.