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Community Climate Hero: Ice Lekometros Moore, Farm Manager, Hilltop Hanover Farm

Interview written by Rooted Solutions Intern, Sofia Jacobson

Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center, located in Yorktown Heights, Westchester County, New York, is dedicated to the development and advancement of sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, community education, and accessible food systems for all. Their sustainable and climate-friendly farming practices are leading the way in creating change.

Bedford 2030 had the opportunity to talk with Ice Lekometros Moore, the Farm Manager at Hilltop Hanover Farms, to discuss the importance of sustainable agriculture, partnerships and creating a community around climate action. The B2030 team also got a chance to harvest some fresh produce to donate to Second Chance Foods!

What is the connection between sustainable farming and the environment?

There are so many angles that we touch on. I think local food and transportation are going to be important steps in fighting the climate crisis. Transportation is a huge polluter and emitter of greenhouse gasses. Here at Hilltop, we are minimizing that because our produce never leaves the farm except through our consumers so there are very few food miles. Additionally, our farming practices are built around regenerating soil and, ultimately, for harvesting. We think about the balance between the use of equipment that consumes diesel and electric options. Right now, we are very lucky to have almost twice as much land as we need to produce at any given time. Cover cropping becomes essential on the other half of it. We use plants like buckwheat or clover which will feed our honeybees, pollinators, and also hold the soil in place during the terrible storms. We enlist a little help from these plants to protect the land.

How are partnerships essential to the success of sustainable farming in our community?

We partner with both big and small businesses. For example, we partner with LMNOP Bakery in Katonah and they buy from us weekly. It is a really nice relationship because we are able to have lots of creativity. They also take food that there is nothing necessarily wrong with but it may not be presentable for retail sale, maybe there is a blemish or it is misshapen. They are able to
transform it into something people recognize as a high quality, high value food item. As we are developing our wholesale relationships, I think it is important to also develop connections with chefs and restaurants who want to do justice to the crops we are growing. We want to work with food processors who give justice to the organic crops with love, intention, and a lot of care. The goal is to develop meaningful relationships around the food.

What has been the biggest challenge of implementing and advocating for sustainable farming?

The weather has without a doubt been a challenge. I have been farming for 9 or 10 years now and I feel like this is the hardest year by far and I think I have said that 6 out of 9 years! It should be getting easier because our team and practices are getting better, but yet, somehow it is harder every season. This seems to be the consensus among all the surrounding farms. Last year, there was a terrible drought and this year there has been high heat, downpours, and wind that is detrimental for our crops. The high heat also brings terrible insect problems that lead to crop losses. When a storm came through a few weeks ago, we realized that we need to think more about agroforestry and shade for our crops. In a lot of ways this was a wonderful and successful season so far, but we are always pushed because of the climate challenges.

What has been the most successful part of your experience?

The number one biggest success is not actually the work we are doing here but the fact that the community is aware of the initiatives at Hilltop Hanover. When you go to the internet and try to figure out how to make a difference with climate change, it can be so daunting. It is really important to have a resource, like the people who are here, to say this is what works for us and in our area. We have the capacity to be running this farm in a much more sustainable way: we are able to hire many people and have this community built around the farm. A woman came here this morning who said she has lived here for 40 years and had never been to this farm. But now she is engaged in the farm stand, the classes, and eating locally. The farm is here to act as a motherboard for this greater satellite program where people can go home and make changes in their own lives. We are not going to save the environment on this property alone, but it is about building a strong community that is engaged in the conversation, with the
capacity to change minds, and make an impact. I do see and feel that success.

How do you think we can more generally increase the conversation around the importance of sustainable farming and Hilltop Hanover both in our community and beyond?

Personally, I would like to highlight this farm as a topic of conversation. We can make this a focus of a series of speakers or talks. This might be the next step for us. We are all farmers here and we get so focused on farming, but we need to zoom out a bit and remember this is all part of the bigger conversation. I am really big on thinking about how and where your physical stuff is coming from. Think about how it gets to you: what is the company I am purchasing this product from, how and where is this literally made? My second piece of advice would be to not be too hard on yourself. I think where you can build good habits is a nice structure and start to climate action.