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A Passion for Farming

Updated: Nov 27, 2023



By Rachel Dutil | Photos by Jessica McCafferty


Marisa Lenetsky and Mike Champagne are entering their second season at North Point Community Farm in the Town of Plattsburgh. The friends met while working on farms in the Hudson Valley and decided to come to Plattsburgh in late 2021 to start a vegetable farm. Both Lenetsky and Champagne are first generation farmers, although Champagne’s grandparents had a dairy business where they processed and delivered milk locally.

There was a lot of growth in their first year in business: a jump from three to 10 employees, adding an additional greenhouse and a second weekly trip delivering vegetables to the Hudson Valley, plus a facelift to their farmstand. North Point Community Farm now has 125 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members.

Path to Farming Champagne grew up in Plattsburgh and left the area for college in 2010. He moved to Maine and later Colorado before settling in the Hudson Valley. “My grandfather raised cows and chickens and pigs. That was cool, but in college I really got into vegetables. That is when I moved to Maine,” Champagne said. “It changed my life. I haven’t stopped since 2014.”

Lenetsky grew up in Brooklyn. Her route to the subway station on the way to her high school was through a Farmers’ Market. “I enjoyed looking at all the vegetables and experimenting with cooking them,” she said. Her first exposure to agriculture came during college at McGill University when she interned at the student farm after her freshman year. “I got hooked and farmed through college. It’s all I’ve done since,” she explained. “I get to be outside all day. There’s organization, there’s science, there’s creativity, and it’s physical work.”

The Hudson Valley is a rich agricultural region in the state that stretches from New York City to Albany. Its proximity to urban centers provides strong markets for farm products. “It’s a great hub for a young farmer in the Northeast,” Lenetsky said, adding there are a lot of farms and a multitude of opportunities at different sized farms growing vegetables or raising livestock.

Champagne admitted that after high school he was eager to leave the North Country, but while he was farming in the Hudson Valley, he wondered what it would be like to return. He and Lenetsky wanted to start a farm in an area where the market was not already saturated.

“Plattsburgh is the perfect magical place to start a vegetable farm,” Lenetsky said, elaborating that the idea of being located in a population center that didn’t already have a large vegetable farm presence was appealing. It is an added bonus that there are mountains and a lake and high-quality farmland as well. Champagne’s connections to the area also help, as the land they rent for the farm is owned by the family of a childhood friend.

The Farm The two rent 50 acres of a 350-acre former dairy farm on the Military Turnpike and grow vegetables on nearly 25 acres. The farm offers CSA shares, vegetables at the Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Keene Valley, and Peru Farmers’ Markets, and provides wholesale distribution to farmstands in the Hudson Valley. Their Plattsburgh farmstand will open in June and a-pick-your-own flower garden will serve as an added benefit to CSA members.

“With vegetable farming, you have to design an entire system of production,” Lenetsky explained. “Since we knew we wanted to be at the tractor scale, we kind of just had to start with everything.” (Tractor scale means working the land with tractors vs. by hand.  The use of machinery increases efficiency and it allows North Point to be at the size they are. 25 acres is A LOT of vegetables!!) 

“Starting our farm took a lot of capital. The initial investment is incredibly high, especially for the margins,” Champagne offered. “We took a chance, got loans, spent all of our savings and believed in the CSA model.”

“We didn’t quite have everything right out of the gate. We had only one tractor and there were certain implements we were missing,” Lenetsky clarified. “We’re trying to grow into ourselves.”

The farm’s CSA members pick up weekly either at the farm or in Trinity Park in downtown Plattsburgh. A newsletter is sent out on Sundays with an update on what vegetables will be provided at the coming week’s pickup. “We sell everything. Lots of broccoli, bunches of carrots and beets, shallots, watermelon and cantaloupe — all of it,” Lenetsky said. “You name it, we grow it,” Champagne added.

Moving Forward As they build their business, both Lenetsky and Champagne are consciously working to create not only a successful business, but also a good culture for their employees. “Both of us spent years working for other people on different farms and we’ve had so many really frustrating experiences as farm employees,” Lenetsky said. “The most important thing to us starting this farm is that it be a positive, healthy, fun, inspiring, engaging work environment. We’ve put a lot of energy into cultivating that and paying attention to team dynamics and how we can always make it better.”

Thus far, the farm has not struggled to find labor. Their employees have diverse skills that benefit all areas of the farm. “We have a really talented crew and everyone is excited to be a part of this,” Champagne said. Champagne and Lenetsky agree that infrastructure is the weakest point of their farm and where they most want to focus energy and investment. Ultimately, they would also like to add dinner events on CSA pickup days to continue to build on the fun atmosphere where customers bring their kids, their dogs and a picnic to spend time on the farm and with other members of the community. “We want to grow slowly and not bite off more than we can chew,” Lenetsky concluded.

North Point Community Farm 2172 Military Turnpike Plattsburgh, NY 12901 www.northpointcommunityfarm.com

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