Spencer Fenniman came to Hawthorne Valley Farm in January 2012 to take on the position of Field Manager. A Westchester County native, Spencer graduated from Colby College in Maine with a degree in Anthropology before spending time living out West, where he began pursuing farming as a vocation.
“I was interested in food policy and looking for a job to get me between ski seasons,” Spencer said. “When I got into farming, though, I realized it’s much more than planting and growing. It’s planning and logistics, and that made me pursue it more.”
Spencer worked on a farm in western Oregon for 4 years, before coming to Hawthorne Valley. He and his wife Jill were looking to move back to the East Coast when he first heard about the Hawthorne Valley Farm.
“We visited and felt it was a good place to work, and the nature of the job and its ability to work with animals and the landscape was great,” Spencer said. “There used to be a Farmscape fish tank in the Farm Store, and when we saw that, it was an indication that this place focused on a lot of important activities, and we felt it was a fit for us.”
In his role as Field Manager, Spencer provides feed for the livestock and manages the fertility of the land. He has expanded the Farm’s grain growing enterprise to provide food for the livestock and the Farm’s organic Bakery. With the help of Bruno Follador from the Nature Institute, Spencer also guided a process to systematize the Farm’s compost operation, a vital aspect of maintaining the fertility of both pastures and vegetable fields.
In October 2017, he and CSA manager Lucy Marston became the co-managers for the farm, taking over from Steffen Schneider who had led the Farm for 25 years. As part of these new roles, Spencer and Lucy will lead the farm management team to maintain and establish the farm’s vision and direction to meet current and future needs of the Hudson Valley.
“The Farm has gone through a significant land expansion recently,” Spencer said. “The Farm is in a stage of maturing and on the cusp of being able to start new things. As part of that, Lucy and I will work on maturing processes and integrating everything in the Farm organism. This next stage is really about turning the Farm’s diversity into complexity.”
Looking the future, Spencer is enthusiastic about the Farm’s potential for developing new enterprises and is thankful that his young children will be able to grow up experiencing farm life.
“It’s rewarding when your child can be aware of your work and spend time on a farm,” he said. “Animals can teach us so much about life.”