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Thanksgiving Farm and the Center for Discovery- Road Harris, NY- October 2010

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Thanksgiving Farm and the Center for Discovery- Road Harris, NY

Seventy five miles northwest of New York City is a farm where physically disabled people are free to learn, to gain self-esteem, and to help reach fulfillment in their lives. The Center for Discovery is a private non-profit corporation that was started in the 1940’s by a group of nearby families to help with the assistance and care of local physically disabled people. The Center was located in Liberty and maintained about twelve employees throughout the first few decades. In the early 1980’s, a new CEO came on board, and the Center began to expand quite rapidly.

Today the Center now has 350 full time residents ranging in ages five to geriatric, and the Center employs about 1,400 staff members. The Center moved from its original location of Liberty, New York to nearby Hurleyville, and has both new and renovated buildings for housing, teaching, and other activities to enhance the lives of the residents. A big part of the Center is the Thanksgiving Farm.

Thanksgiving Farm is a 310 acre organic farm that is part of the Center for Discovery. Here, this farm is a self-sustaining, environmentally focused organic farm encompassing several different types of agriculture. There is beef, poultry, dairy and vegetable farming. Some of the vegetable farming is done outside, on about 17 acres of land, and some of the farming is done in about 36,000 square feet of greenhouse space mostly used as high tunnels.

About ten years ago, farm manager Greg York, erected the first Rimol Greenhouses on the Thanksgiving Farm. About six structures were built as organic high tunnels with natural ventilation and some supplemental heat in a few of the tunnels. These tunnels were primarily used for tomato and pepper production. However, as the demand for the fresh produce remained constant with the staff and patients, Greg kept adding greenhouse space and tunnels every year.

Today, one greenhouse is just for growing all of the transplants for the 17 acres of vegetable farming. As production in the tunnels expanded, land was carefully selected to minimize the carbon footprint while maximizing output. There are now two locations on the Farm with Rimol Greenhouses. The Center’s newest location has three moveable high tunnels (Rolling Thunder).

Each of these three moveable tunnels is unheated and covers three different plots. Therefore, with three tunnels, the Farm is gaining the benefits of nine tunnels with the crop rotation. Currently, the tunnels have been moved into their location for winter production, which will be mostly spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. At one of the plots for the moveable tunnels, a head house is currently under construction to help with planting and harvesting.

Due to soil conditions, one benefit of using the tunnels is that they can also eliminate salt build-up. With the stationary tunnels, leaching had to take place to eliminate accumulated salts in their existing tunnels. Now, by just moving the tunnels, leaching can naturally happen with rainfall which minimizes labor. Each of the three moveable tunnels are 30 feet wide by 96 feet long and are easily moved with just four people.

Thanksgiving Farm and the Center for Discovery are successfully feeding 1,750 people healthy and nutritious food. The year round growing helps the farm remain self-sustaining and environmentally focused, and ultimately enriches the lives of many physically disabled people.