If you think Apple Pond Farm and Renewable Energy Education Center sounds like a really busy place—you’re right. On any given day, you can find 70-year-old Sonja Hedlund and partner Dick Riseling breeding and raising sheep, goats and chickens, selling meat and eggs, breeding, raising and training horses and operating multiple solar and renewable energy systems—and have been for 37 years.
Did we mention they’ve started making tinctures and syrups out of their own crop of elderberries? “I have a passion for farming, for country living, for growing my own food and eating what I grow,” Hedlund explains. It’s a desire she inherited from her Swedish-born parents who grew up farming land in their home country and Michigan.
Hedlund is constantly collaborating with the “hardworking, dedicated and resourceful” farmers in her Catskill community for a simple reason. “I see myself as a grassroots organizer here, working with people whose voice needs to be heard, whose values and livelihood need to be supported.” Hedlund plans on calling upon her networking skills at Terra Madre to connect with like-minded farmers from across the country.
Hedlund’s deep-seated belief in the power of community lead her to participate in the formation of the Sullivan County Farm Network—a network of farmers whose aim is to preserve and expand dairy farm land in the area, and whose interests in finding healthy foods at reasonable prices close to home align with hers. Why spend so much time organizing and helping other farmers? Hedlund explains it better than we ever could: “No farmers, no food.”