Munching on some fresh-picked greens is probably the best way to understand why there is such hoopla about small scale farming, farm-to-table restaurants, agri-entertainment, and other concepts that are related to restoring a farming culture in our society. Shortening the path from dirt to mouth not only has the benefits of providing more flavorful and nutritious foods to consumers, it is also more cost-efficient, environmentally sustainable, and can provide more jobs than the current mega-farming model that dominates the current agriculture industry. Meet this week’s intrepid group of Doers and Dreamers that are planting themselves and some seeds just north of the Kingston city line to help advance that new model of agriculture entrepreneurism.
Your name: Ashton & Michelle Zubal : Hendrix Zubal, Plus the Pups Milo & Roka!
Nicholas & Sarah Marnell : Nash & Otis Marnell
Business or organization: Farmstock LLC; 250 Esopus Ave,. Kingston, NY 12401
Occupation: First Generation Farmers/Owners of Farmstock, Voice Actor/Actor, Fashion Corporate Dropouts, Full time Parents
What is your approach to your business or occupation that makes you unique?
We all left comfortable living situations, which most people would consider “good enough,” to risk everything. Nothing about our lives are the same now; except each other. We find great joy in progressing change instead of waiting and watching. And it all starts with food!
We decided to be farmers when we all went to a Farm Aid concert YEARS ago. It was our AH HA moment and now we are CRAZY dedicated to responsible farming and increasing the access to locally grown, high quality produce using no tractors, no till, organic growing methods and a lot of crossing our fingers. We also strongly believe in transparent business practices, bartering and living wages… no secrets over here!
Where are you from originally?
We all hail from different places in the US, and our story of meeting one another is fun!
Michelle is originally from Long Island, New York. She met Nicholas (from Chicago, Illinois) while going to Fashion School in Los Angeles, where they met Ashton (from Salt Lake City, Utah) at a party in Hollywood. The three of them quickly formed a lifelong friendship. They all moved to NYC to pursue careers and education and where Nicholas met Sarah (from Cleveland, Ohio) at a bar playing on opposing sides in a fiercely competitive beer pong game, (which she won). Here we all are 11 years later, in awesome personal and professional relationships with one another!
What brought you to the Kingston area and keeps you in this area?
We searched for years for the perfect land or home to purchase as a “weekend” escape from the city. We fell in love with Kingston on one of our adventures. When we stumbled upon a tiny cottage right in midtown, we couldn’t say no. The timing just so happened to be when Hendrix was about to be born, and it felt like our city chapter of our life was quickly coming to an end. At the closing we found out the land across the street was a 300 acre plot of farm land. Kind of perfect for where we wanted to be in life!
We love the electric community vibe plus the city feel, and how the entire community supports each other is really beautiful. The more we learn about Kingston, the more we fall in love with it.
What is your favorite hangout in this area and why?
We love being in Kingston, and the fact that there is always something new to see or do. Ashton often plays open mic at the Anchor (we also love the beer selection and food). We’ve been to many farmers markets, but the Kingston market is our absolute favorite. From the live music to the vendors, it always makes for the perfect Saturday outing. We visit many parks with our sons. Forsyth is a fan favorite for the animal feedings and the amazing playground. Eating at Outdated, Beers/Books at Rough Draft and walking around the Roundout by the Brickyards are also some favorites.
When you’re not in Kingston, what’s your idea of a wonderful city to visit, and why?
Even though, we have a good bit of travel between us, we have lived in NYC for 10+ years and it’s our favorite. We took the tools that we learned from working like crazy and learning in the city, and were able to move up here to start to do what we love.
Outside the US we all collectively love Reykjavík, Iceland. Besides from the breathtaking landscape and abundance of activities, the food, people, culture, and nightlife all have sold us on going back again and again.
Tell us something that we never would have guessed about you.
We ALL lived together in Queens in a tight two bedroom apartment. WHY!? Well, we needed to save money and plan for our farm. No one was getting that done with NYC rent costs.
We grew microgreens on our fire escape and made family dinners. 2 families, 3 kids, 2 dogs and a lot of work later… Here we are in Kingston making our dreams come true.