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.”