People, Places

Westwind Orchard:
A Modern Family Farm

Fashion editor and stylist Laura Ferrara spends the week scouting, sourcing, and assembling the ingredients for stunning images. Her sharp eye shapes the look of magazine covers, runway shows, and advertising campaigns. But on most weekends she can be found on the farm: Westwind Orchard, a 32-acre working apple orchard and farm in the Hudson River Valley hamlet of Accord, New York. Here, along with her husband, fashion photographer Fabio Chizzola, and their teenaged son, Matteo, she is part of a community whose pace and priorities differ sharply from those of her day job yet offers its own creative challenges, and is the source of endless discoveries and fruitful collaborations

“When I got into fashion—I was a marketing and business major—I didn’t even know there were careers in fashion. It happened organically,” says Ferrara, who was born in Italy and raised in Brooklyn. “It’s the same thing here. You get into something because you just love it, not because you’re thinking ahead.” The couple purchased the property in 2002 for its charming stone farmhouse, planning to rent the land to local farmers. They soon found that years of neglect had left the hundreds of apple trees overgrown and unable to produce good fruit.

The apple orchard that Ferrara and Chizzola purchased in 2002 was first planted in the 1930s by Chester Khon, who tended the property for four decades before selling it to the Schoonmaker family, the owners and operators of twelfth-generation Saunderskill Farms. Today it is a certified organic farm with crops that include apples, blackberries, squash, onions, and tomatoes.

Chizzola, born and raised in Italy, decided to take matters into his own hands: reading books on apple growing, attending conferences, and tapping into a network of local growers. “For six years we just chopped down, cleaned up, chopped down, cleaned up, and then in 2008, we opened up for people to come and pick their own apples,” he says. “We had a bumper crop.”

The deliberate renovations continued, and Chizzola slowly expanded his plantings to include pears, raspberries, garlic, grapes, and winter squash (“now we do a whole variety, from butternut to delicata to weird pumpkins and gourds”). A flock of chickens arrived. In the winter downtime, he added honeybee hives, began tapping the trees for maple syrup, and started transforming blocks of wood from the orchard’s trees into smooth boards for cutting and serving.

“This has been thirteen years in the making. It’s not like we woke up one day and said “I’m going to buy a farm!” It’s been self-taught in a lot of ways, and we’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs—hurricanes, lost crops. We feel blessed that we could do this, and we want to spread the kind of joy that we get from it, because that’s why we’re still doing it.”

Laura Ferrara
Born and raised in Rome, Chizzola spent childhood summers in Amatrice, a small town in central Italy. “My family never traveled out of Italy. We always stayed in this little village in the mountains,” he says. “There were chickens and cows. We would make the hay. So life on a farm feels natural to me.”

“At the farm everyone comes together. There’s no differentiation. We have our friends from the city meeting our farmer friends. Farming is more than just growing vegetables, it’s like growing a community.”

Laura Ferrara
Ferrara and Chizzola transformed one of the barns into an airy gathering place that includes a cozy sleeping loft. Both the barn and their stone house are “full of stuff we love,” says Ferrara, including a Knoll table found decades ago at Manhattan’s 26th Street flea market and a massive dining table made from a slab of reclaimed wood. “If you come to our place, there’s no formality,” she adds. “It’s just come as you are.”

Chizzola grabs one of the boards by its leather loop and runs his hand over the ingrained pattern of irregular stripes. “Ambrosia maple,” he explains. “Maple is this paler color, but when ambrosia beetles bore into a tree, it discolors the wood.” In selecting wood for the boards—whether maple, cherry, or black walnut—nature is his guide. He usually begins with wood that has a raw “live” edge and then follows the grain. “It’s almost as if it’s the shape that the wood wants to be in,” says Ferrara. Each board gets three coats of food-grade mineral oil and then a final protective gloss of beeswax, fresh from the hive, mixed with mineral oil.

A finishing touch on the boards and all of the products Chizzola and Ferrara produce, an assortment that also includes handmade chocolate and gelato created in collaboration with other local farmers, is the application of the Westwind Orchard logo, a heart pierced by a trio of arrows. The design is based on a drawing made by their son when he was around six years old. “When Laura had the idea for making Matteo’s card into our logo, the whole circle came together, because he is part of it now,” says Chizzola, mentioning his son’s responsibility to deliver fresh eggs to friends and neighbors. “For us, it’s about the approach. We want to enjoy what we’re doing here and to share it with people.”

A store on the property is kept stocked with a mix of Westwind Orchard’s seasonal offerings and finds from the family’s travels. “After we visited Morocco, I had all these Moroccan hats and blankets in the store—just things that I liked,” says Ferrara. “It could be two or three pieces or ten pieces.”

“Westwind Orchard is more than just a passing hobby. It is a passion. And today it stands for more than just local, organic apples. It’s a vision for a local farming future.”

Fabio Chizzola