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Hoener Farms Crafts Reclaimed Wood Furniture in the Hudson Valley

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Photos courtesy of Jordan Hoener

Using Japanese joinery, Hoener Farms handcrafts hardwood furniture from trees rescued locally or grown at its Millbrook location.

Second chances are possible in the Hudson Valley. On the eco-friendly front, upcycling has become all the rage as local makers focus on sustainability. Throughout the region, brands have taken on everything from turning post-consumer plastic into activewear to sparing hides from local cattle farms to create gorgeous parchment at plant-based tanneries. In Millbrook, one couple finds new uses for fallen trees through beautiful handcrafted furniture.

“When we bought our property in Millbrook, it needed a lot of work. It was an old farm and had been overgrown with trees and brambles….A lot of trees were dead. We had a lot of ash trees hit by the ash borer beetle,” Jordan Hoener says.

Hoener-Farms--Millbrook,-NY

She and her husband Max, who grew up nearby in Rhinebeck, started their own farm, appropriately named Hoener Farms. In prepping the site for animals, the pair discovered a wealth of untapped resources, namely, dead trees. 

We thought, we should be doing something with this wood,” she recalls. “There was still usable lumber inside. We should be milling it.”

Max-Hoener-sawmilling

Max Hoener sawmilling

So, they built a sawmill. Jordan originally hails from New Mexico and spent a lot of her childhood farming and learning trades. Among the many skills she developed during that time was welding. She taught Max, who was able to build the mill for Hoener Farms.

Hoener Farms

Stanford coffee table

On the other hand, Max comes from a long line of woodworkers. His grandfather was a sculptor and an artist, and this instilled a deep passion for creativity. Meanwhile, his father teaches graphic design at SUNY New Paltz and crafts furniture. Max strives to design pieces that surpass structurally sound furniture.

In other words, he’s making art.

Hudson-coffee-tablegrass

Hudson coffee table

“We’re very influenced by Japanese joinery techniques. A lot of our inspiration also comes from George Nakashima, who was a terrific woodworker,” Jordan says. Nakashima led the American craft movement with his innovative designs. A reliance on joinery means that Hoener Farms furniture does not require nuts, bolts, and other fasteners. Outside of glue in a few spots, the pieces are held together purely through design. Typically, if a piece goes together, it can also come apart for things like easy transport.

So, what does the crafting process actually entail?

Max-Hoener-and-Wilson-lounge-chair

Wilson lounge chair

The Hoeners dub their method “full circle furniture.” They source every bit of wood from the Hudson Valley and never cut down healthy trees. Instead, they collect wood after storms knock down towering maples or when pests and disease ravage ash trees. In addition, Hoener Farms works with local homeowners and tree companies to ensure nothing goes to waste. Whether wood arrives as a log or a felled tree, it doesn’t leave until Jordan and Max breathe new life into it.

“We do one of two things with homeowners. Either they can essentially donate their tree and we will make furniture for another project with it, or they can have us make a piece of furniture for them from that tree. That way, they always kind of have something from that living organism,” Jordan says. 

Jordan-Hoener-carving-spoons

Jordan Hoener carving spoons

In a similar vein, sentimentality drives Hoener Farms. Take its Milk Road Trestle Table as an example. The property on which the farm stands dates back to the 1700s. So, when an old growth maple tree fell last fall, it provided a canvas. This particular beauty reminded the Hoeners of the Shakers (as their property once served as a popular milk road).

Milk-Road-Trestle-Table(1)

Milk Road Trestle Table

Small details and imperfections in the wood remain, preserving a natural quality that’s highly attractive, especially when one considers the popularity that live-edge tables have garnered in recent years. Max also turned to Japanese temples to inform the design of the table’s feet. Channeling Nakashima, he used mortise and tenon joinery. In other words, he designed every component of the table to fit together like a puzzle. The farm’s own C-channel steel supports and house-made brass buttons reinforce the top. Hoener Farms produces furniture that’s meant to last, and “its durability measured in centennials,” according to its website.

To ensure longevity, Jordan and Max take special care in preparing the wood after milling it. First, it needs to air-dry for a length of time until it achieves a very precise moisture level. Next, the wood moves into a solar kiln, where it dries for several additional weeks. After that, the wood enters a second and much hotter kiln. This step kills off any insects lingering inside and further stabilizes the wood.

White-Ash-kitchen-island-top

White Ash kitchen island top

Finally, the couple can start building.

The wood goes through a jointer, then a plainer, then Jordan does the sanding and finishing.

“We only use non-toxic finishes. They’re completely safe for anybody and everybody. We avoid chemicals…and New Age products as much as possible,” Jordan says.

After assembly, the pieces are sold through the farm store and website. Other standout items include the Hudson Coffee Table (made from the same maple tree as the Milk Road Trestle Table), the Wilson lounge chair (one of Max’s favorite creations), and a line of kitchenware.

Hand-carved-spoons(2)

Any home chef would benefit from the gorgeous charcuterie boards, serving trays, risotto spoons, and hand-carved spatulas. If you’re looking to put the tools to the test, the website features a myriad of traditional recipes. Most of them come from Jordan’s family and date back to the late 1800s.

Hoener Farms also offers custom furniture design. Max and his father generate 3D models, permitting clients to visualize the piece in their home.

Hudson-coffee-table

Hudson coffee table

“We sit down with a client and really see not just what piece they’re interested in having us build, but the space that it’s going to be going into. That’ll [inform] the type of wood that’s used. We try not to do any staining on the word—obviously if a customer wants something stained, we will stain it—but, we really try to keep more of a natural finish,” Jordan explains.

Hoener Farms is open to the public for farm tours and interactive programs. Jordan has taught a few welding class already and hopes to offer woodworking fundamentals courses in the future. Of course, a highlight of any visit is spending time with the adorable animals onsite.

Hand-carved-spoons

Currently, the farm has about 20 egg-laying hens, several Icelandic and Baby Southdown sheep, a few pygmy goats, and a sweet Scottish Highland cow named Elmer. Jordan uses wool fibers for personal crocheting projects and aspires to raise meat cattle and dairy cows down the road.

Elmer’s from a breeder in Amenia, and honestly he’s more of a pet,” Jordan laughs. The duo will be getting a few more from the same breeder in the next year or so to start breeding their own Scottish Highland cows.

Max-_-Jordan-Hoener-with-animals

Above all, Hoener Farms seeks to spread awareness of sustainable practices and methods that better utilize the natural resources around us. Jordan and Max cultivate a deep love of agriculture and have consultation sessions for locals looking to start their own Hudson Valley farm.

Elmer-_-BamBam

Elmer the Scottish Highland and BamBam the pygmy goat

“We’re not professionals in every single aspect, but we help people who want to have animals and who want to live off the land. We get them set up with their fencing and barns and everything they’ll need to care for the animals,” Jordan notes.

Together, the pair use a lifetime of experience to share expertise and even offer custom-built solutions. To visit Hoener Farms, set up an appointment through the website.

Related: FN Furniture Crafts Zero-Waste Designs in the Hudson Valley

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