As we spoke to dozens of farming experts to create this issue, one name was repeatedly mentioned: Ana Zabirova. We were told that ‘she did it all.’ Naturally, we had to meet her for ourselves and find out what that really meant. So we ventured up to Unbroken Acres, her farm in Sullivan County, in search of this former Northern Westchester farmer.

Ask Ana Zabirova, and she’ll tell you she was born to be a farmer. From tilling the soil to harvesting the crops and bringing them to market, she is there for all of it, and she has never wanted to do anything else.

Unbroken Acres, her 31-acre farm in Sullivan County,  is a popular location for produce and education. For Zabirova, it’s the culmination of years of study and backbreaking field work, learning about soil, irrigation, mulch, harvesting, tractor repair and more, starting in her teens.

“In high school, I had the opportunity to do a two-month internship program, and that’s where I came across Cabbage Hill in Mount Kisco,” she says. “I was particularly interested in their hydroponics setup, since I was heading to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse to major in aquatics and fishery science.”

“I came home every winter and summer, continuing to work at Cabbage Hill,” Zabirova continues. “Eventually, they offered me a job, which I continued to do post grad. I did mushroom growing, aquaponics, farm tours and just about anything else that came my way.”

Eventually, Zabirova set out on her own, working first as a farm manager at Fable: From Farm to Table, a farm and educational center in Ossining, and then eventually landing at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction as the vegetable manager.

Zabirova flourished at Fishkill Farms. She managed a crew of fourteen people with several hundreds of acres of vegetables and orchards, she learned all the angles of farm life, including seed orders, harvesting, packing and even machinery.

“That’s where I started to learn about equipment operation and maintenance,” recalls Zabirova. “There was a great mechanic there, and I’d hang out with him in the shop, learning as much as I could. Fortunately, the crew was always breaking something, and I worked on everything: weed wackers, zero turn tractors, skid steers and excavators.”

Zabirova also managed the farm’s harvest, working everyday from four in the morning until nine at night to grow produce for various markets, fall festivals, farm stores, the CSA and a variety of locations extending from Park Slope all the way to Beacon.

“It was intense,” says Zabirova. “But the work taught me a lot about farm systems and management.”

Unbroken Acres

Seven years after she was hired, Zabirova and several of her staff were laid off due to a “tough winter.” So she returned to Westchester County and became an estate farmer in the Bedford area, harvesting and selling produce, managing orchards and cutting gardens. In her spare time, she continued to foster connections with like-minded people at nearby farms, such as D.I.G. Farm in North Salem and her old friends at Cabbage Hill.

Despite this work, she dreamed of owning her own land in Westchester – her ultimate goal was to provide local farming to the community, which Zabirova believes may be the answer for sustainable living.

“When a town is self-sustainable, the infrastructure is less taxed,” she explains. “Spaces are more productive, rather than simply sitting there as meticulously maintained parks. People are involved and better connected with one another, which might sound a bit utopian, but what’s wrong with that?”

Sadly for Zabirova, she couldn’t achieve this goal in Bedford.

“The zoning and regulations are far too difficult in places like Westchester,” she explains. “The price of land is very high, and it’s not encouraging for someone to create an acre of productive land.”

In 2020, Zabirova stumbled upon a quaint farm in Cochecton, located an hour from Bedford in Sullivan County.

“It’s a small but charming farmhouse with a few acres of land to build and grow on,” she says. “It was all that I needed.”

Today, Unbroken Acres provides produce throughout her community, and it offers a self-serve farmstand for customers to visit. She loves every bit of the work, but she’s particularly passionate about education.

“I started this farm with the intention of leading it back to what I did at Cabbage Hill,” says Zabirova. “I want to take those who are wondering about their future vocation and teach them what I know — whether it’s maintenance, machinery, building, irrigation, soil, mulch or whatever else. People come to the farmstand with questions, and I happily take them around to show them how it’s done.”

Zabirova says she would like to expand her teaching into a more formal setting, but  even this skilled farmer has her limits.

“I’m aiming to set class dates and have groups come, but I’m not very organized with electronics,” she explains. “Honestly, I just prefer working outside.”

Until that time, she intends to continue learning and while also sharing her love of farming with all that will listen.

“I think it’s an enriching part of life, and anyone that can be a part of this world in some fashion should. It’ll change your life.”

This article was published in the March/April 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

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Justin is an award-winning designer and photographer. He was the owner and creative director at Future Boy Design, producing work for clients such as National Parks Service, Vintage Cinemas, The Tarrytown Music Hall, and others. His work has appeared in Bloomberg TV, South by Southwest (SXSW), Edible Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Refinery 29, the Art Directors Club, AIGA and more.

Justin is a two-time winner of the International Design Awards, American Photography and Latin America Fotografia. Vice News has called Justin Negard as “one of the best artists working today.”

He is the author of two books, On Design, which discusses principles and the business of design, and Bogotà which is a photographic journey through the Colombian capital.

Additionally, Justin has served as Creative Director at CityMouse Inc., an NYC-based design firm which provides accessible design for people with disabilities, and has been awarded by the City of New York, MIT Media Lab and South By Southwest.

He lives in Katonah with his wonderfully patient wife, son and daughter.