Eugene Kwak, Togather: Building a Space for a New Generation of Farmers - American Farmland Trust

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Eugene Kwak, Togather

September 12, 2019

Building a Space for a New Generation of Farmers

Eugene, Claire, and farmers at Togather Farm

Self-proclaimed urbanites Eugene Kwak and Claire Ko wanted to do more for farmers than their New York City routine—shopping at farmers market visits and belonging to a CSA. Eugene decided he could use his experience as an architect and professor to create a space for farming, food, and people to come together through agritourism and education. He named his vision Togather.  

His first step was to find land in the Hudson Valley. Eugene used the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, a partnership of 17 organizations that American Farmland Trust coordinates to connect farmers and landowners in the Hudson Valley, to better inform and narrow down his search for land. With the added help of a local realtor, Eugene found a 15-acre parcel that was previously part of a dairy farm in Orange County that fit his needs and where he could continue the agricultural legacy of the land.  

Once he made his purchase, Eugene was ready to move forward with finding a farmer with whom to partner. He went back to the Hudson Valley Farmland Finder website, this time as a landowner, and looked for a farmer to revitalize the land with a vegetable operation. In exchange, he offered a free 30-year land lease and below-market rent on half of a two-family house he was in the process of building on the property. Eugene designed the arrangement to empower a young farmer by providing the opportunity to farm worry free and for a long time.  

Eugene found his match with Jack Whettam and Melissa Phillips, and their daughter Phoenix, a family from California seeking an opportunity to farm in the Hudson Valley. The family started Hidden Acre Farm on the property in early 2019. Jack and Melissa practice responsible, regenerative agriculture on the property. Claire, who is well-connected in food and drink hospitality, has helped the farmers connect to market opportunities in New York City.