People look at farming and think, ‘Oh, it’s so simple.’ It’s the complete opposite! LAURA FERRARA
Down a winding road, nestled deep in the Rondout Valley between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, sits Westwind Orchard, a pick-your-own-apples farm two hours north of Manhattan. That it’s located in the harmonious-sounding town of Accord, New York, lends even more appeal to the orchard’s charms. And then there are the stewards of the land, its proprietors Laura Ferrara and her husband, Fabio Chizzola, who both maintain dual identities. “Most people here don’t know what I do,” says Ferrara over lunch at the farm this past May. She’s referring to her other profession as one of the fashion industry’s top stylists. Chizzola, meanwhile, originally from Rome, leads a second career as a fashion photographer. For 13 years, the couple and their son, Matteo, have divided their time between the Westwind and an apartment in downtown Manhattan.
Fashion has been Ferrara’s primary occupation for nearly two decades—her work has been seen in Vogue, Glamour, and Marie Claire, along with dozens of ad campaigns—and yet the Brooklyn-raised Italian remains an anomaly in that codified world. Preferring a uniform of comfortable, trend-proof classics—Levi’s, white tee, army jacket—Ferrara’s philosophy on fashion and beauty is far more in line with that of an organic farmer. “We modify food to make it bigger or look more perfect in the produce aisle, but it’s not real, and it’s not good for you. And you see the same thing with plastic surgery and how we alter ourselves to meet these unrealistic standards,” she says.
When Ferrara and Chizzola purchased the 33-acre property and its 1770s-era stone farmhouse in 2002, the couple quickly set about restoring the land to its original apple-producing condition. “It was a forest—couldn’t even see through the trees,” Chizzola says during a walk through the orchards. Today the crops include pear, pawpaw, and plum trees—all certified organic—along with rows of berries and vegetables. There are also chickens laying eggs, pigs for prosciutto cured on-site, and bees, along with jars of their award-winning honey. The produce and apples are sold at the farm, while the honey, seasonal jams, maple syrup, and even chocolates can be found at a handful of artisanal shops nationwide. In sync with their heritage, the farm’s most recent addition is an outdoor pizza oven.
But appearances of the rustic la dolce vita can be deceiving to outsiders. “People look at farming and think, ‘Oh, it’s so simple,’ ” Ferrara says. “It’s the complete opposite!” And yet there is an undeniable romance to what they’ve created there. When we speak again, Ferrara has just returned from a trip to Jamaica, where she and Chizzola celebrated their anniversary. Reminiscing about their last time on the island together, Ferrara recounts a memory that’s only become more poignant with time. “That’s when I fell in love with him. It was his sense of adventure. And the farm is just a continuation of the adventure.”