By: Michael R. Siegel, Esq.
My wife Barbie and I were lucky enough to purchase the property of our dreams in 2001. It was an old farm, with a small 19th Century farmhouse, an antique Red Jamesway Barn, and exceptionally fertile soil. We had dreamed of having an organic farm and raising fresh vegetables and mushrooms. After we purchased it we went right to work on this dream, first with a modest plot for ourselves, and then the next thing you know, two years later, we had expanded our efforts, become certified organic, and started doing several regional farmer’s markets. Our logo was a Giant Orange Yellow Heirloom tomato.
We loved farming. We loved the people that we met, our fellow farmers, and the restaurants that featured our produce and eggs. Because it was our passion, we got involved with several farm advocacy groups, including the newly minted Rondout Valley Growers Association. Both my wife and I served as Board Members at different periods, and I offered pro bono legal services to our local farmers and Farmer’s Markets.
In 2007, I wrote an essay entitled “Agriculture offers the best chance to Develop Ulster County,” that was printed in just about every local newspaper, and the next thing I knew I had been drafted to serve on the Ulster Tomorrow vision team as the Agricultural Economic Development team leader (Strategy 12b).
In 2010, my wife and I, and Oleh and Nadia Maczaj of Rusty Plough Farm in Ellenville, formed Rondout Valley Organics, an online Organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Coop, which operated out of the walk-in coolers and packing shed on our farm, and still does to this day. We have grown it from a two-farm, 25 member coop, to a dozen-farm, over 80 member coop. Our members pay an annual fee, deposit money in an escrow account, and draw their accounts down with their weekly online orders, selecting their choice of the freshest offerings from our member farms, and driving to one of our local locations (of which we are one) every Thursday to pick up their bags of produce which are still hand-packed on our farm.
We are proud of the role we have played in local agriculture, and still play today, especially when in our kitchen where we produce magical feasts made with local produce.
Michael R. Siegel is an Attorney and Counselor at Law, Licensed to practice in the State of New York, the Eastern and Southern Federal District Courts in New York, and the Supreme Court of the United States of America. He received his Juris Doctorate from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University in May of 1999, and has been in private practice since January of 2000. Prior to becoming an attorney he was an administrator at New York City Parks and Recreation where he had a long career in Public Service, starting as a New York City Urban Park Ranger in 1979, he became a Mounted Urban Park Ranger, NYC Park Historian, Assistant to the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of Parks, Director of Capital Projects for Brooklyn Parks, and was Chief of Staff for Brooklyn Parks when he left Parks & Recreation to attend Law School in 1996.
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