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Sky High Farm: Artist Dan Colen’s Painterly Landscape in the Hudson Valley

A dramatic black barn set against a rolling green Hudson Valley landscape greets visitors to Sky High Farm, which has a purpose just as grand. All of the 40-acre farm’s organic fruits and vegetables, as well as eggs and the meat from grass-fed livestock, go to food banks and food pantries throughout New York City and state.

The painter Dan Colen, who bought the one-time farm in 2011 to put some physical distance between himself and the city’s downtown art scene, has a studio and residence on the property. Soon after arriving, he saw the potential to create a non-profit venture that would help underserved city residents while preserving the agrarian identity of the land.

Colen partnered with architects Maria Berman and Bradley Horn of Berman Horn Studio to create a farm capable of both doing good and looking good. Berman says her client “very much appreciates the integrity of vernacular working farm buildings, and wanted to create a building that felt like it could have been on this very old farm for many years.”

Today we visit the barn and outbuildings:

Photography by Rush Jagoe, courtesy of Berman Horn Studio.

Black barn on working farm in New York's Hudson Valley
Above: In Pine Plains, New York, the L-shaped  barn at Sky High Farm has two attached volumes serving as a livestock barn and a harvest processing facility. The structure has a corrugated metal roof with wood siding painted in Benjamin Moore’s Black.
Black barn on working farm in New York's Hudson Valley
Above: Of Sky High Farm’s 40 acres of hilly land, two are devoted to vegetable production and 25 to animal pasture.

The farm donates all its meat and produce to food banks and meal programs throughout New York City and state.

Now in its fifth season, the farm estimates it has donated more than 36,000 nutritious, organically grown meals to the hungry.
Compost shed and storage shelter on farm in Hudson Valley
Above: A poured-concrete shelter on the property is topped with cladding and framing that mimics the main barn.
Compost shed and shelter for farm animals in Hudson Valley
Above: The shelter was built as a compost shed and to store propane tanks and generators, “but the animals kind of took it over,” said Berman.
Donkey and chickens in compost shed in Hudson Valley
Above: The structure is still used for its intended purposes, but the animals—here, a donkey and chickens—”like to hang out there when they’re outdoors.”
Interior wood cladding and peg rail of working barn in Hudson Valley
Above: The hallway of the grain processing facility, where hats and boots are stored.

The harvest facility makes use of more modern construction techniques compared to the traditional framing of the livestock barn, shown below. “There’s still quite a bit of traditional construction [in upstate New York],” said Berman. “We loved seeing the same crew building both sides of the barn, clearly knowledgeable of different types of building techniques.”

Interior wood clad working barn in Hudson Valley
Above: The hallway leads to the office, feed room, and cold storage.

“When searching for inspiration, we focused on how the best elements of farm buildings appear to be un-designed—and then sought ways to incorporate that into these new structures,” said Maria Berman.

“Unsurprisingly, it takes a lot of thought to create spaces that seem effortless.”

Peg rail storage in wood clad working barn in Hudson Valley
Above: Livestock accoutrements hang on a painted peg rail.
Mudroom in wood clad working barn in Hudson Valley
Above: A mudroom with bathroom, laundry, and storage links the two wings of the barn. The wash-up cabinet has a soapstone countertop and is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Cinder Rose—”an appealingly slightly muddy pink, which in the light of the barn looks like it could have been from the 1940s,” said Berman.
Working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: The livestock wing has a concrete floor and is framed in heavy fir timber from Williams Lumber upstate.

“We utilized both modern and traditional barn building materials, with nothing precious or whimsical added in,” said Berman.

Ladder to hayloft in working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: A ladder climbs from the first floor of the livestock barn to the hayloft above.
Hayloft of working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: Hay is loaded directly into the loft by conveyor belt through the loft’s upper doors. The hayloft floor is made of oriented strand board.
Hayloft of working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: When needed, hay is dropped directly from the loft to the barn floor below through a framed chute. The opening also allows light from the hayloft skylight to fill the first floor.
Hayloft of working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: “The opening to the first floor is framed out to be both a handrail and a support for the hay piles—so neither hay nor people topple down,” said Berman.
View from hayloft of working livestock barn in Hudson Valley
Above: The view from the hayloft.
Black barn farm architecture in Hudson Valley
Above: The barn at a distance. The architects used simple forms and materials, “both based on budget and to create a sense of accretion over time, as if this space could have been renovated and added to over many years,” said Berman.
All white dorm housing on farm in Hudson Valley
Above: Six interns live on-site. Their budget-conscious housing is tucked above the harvest facility; it has white-painted plywood floors, Ikea furniture, and “custom-made but incredibly inexpensive” tarp curtains.

For more information, visit Sky High Farm, and explore more in the Hudson Valley in:

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