Richard Giles, Lucky Dog Organic Farm
Pure CatskillsBusiness Award Recipient, 2013
Award Purpose: To publicly recognize strong business leaders for their achievements in natural resource, regionally based businesses.
Lucky Dog Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm in Hamden. Richard bought the farm in 2000 and started tilling the soil that year. The farm is small, like most Watershed farms, just 45 acres in a narrow valley bordering the West Branch of the Delaware River. Richard’s wife, Holley White, bought the farm store adjacent to the property the following year. Together with their children Sibyla and Asa Giles, the family embarked on their farming journey in Delaware County. “We were looking for businesses that would support us, and we wanted businesses that made sense in this particular place on the earth,” says Richard. “I grew up farming in the South, mostly commodity crops on large acreages. But here in Delaware County, we needed high-value crops. And because I had spent a good number of years on conventional farms, I wanted to grow organic food. Organic fresh vegetables made sense in the local market, which we sell locally through our store and transport to the larger market in New York City.”
According to Richard, the Watershed Agricultural Council provided a base of support for conservation on the farm from the start. “In our first years here, with the help of the Council, we made soil erosion repairs where the river had come across the farm, established riparian and grass buffers in sensitive areas, and developed a whole farm plan. WAC was our contact agency, and through the Council’s partnerships with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Soil & Water Conservation District, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the Farm Service Agency, we were able to make our whole farm plan a useful conservation plan. It was good to have one agency we could depend on, and later we turned to WAC to develop and purchase a deed of conservation easement through their Easement Program.”
For the past several years, Richard has served on the Council of Directors, serving as secretary this year. Richard is also working on the Council’s transition committee for regional economic viability. “It seems to me such an essential part of this community,” says Richard. “Farmers and foresters are profoundly concerned with the health of their land and their water. And the economic success of small farms is profoundly important to the well-being of this rural community. These facts have defined the Watershed Agricultural Council’s mission.”
Each season, he mentors young farmers and interns, many who move on and start their own operation. He also hosts farm tours for local and international groups and is a member of Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. In 2013, Richard acted on his dream to fill his produce truck to New York City by collaborating with the Council and the Center for Agricultural Economic Development. The newly formed Lucky Dog Local Food Hub aggregates local products and moves those products to wholesalers like Milk Not Jails and FarmersWeb. On Fridays and Saturdays, Richard brings fresh produce to the Greenmarkets and now does so with a full truck.