COVID-19 update: Wicked Finch Farm co-owner Mariana Leung-Weinstein is making masks for essential employees. Learn more on the farm’s Instagram.
Something wicked is brewing in Pawling.
We’re talking “wicked” in the Bostonian sense, that is. After all, Wicked Finch Farm is far too sweet to be taken in any ‘bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” kind of way. Although the farm itself has been a part of the Hudson Valley since the late 1800s, it was not until 2017 that the spot was reborn as a family home and destination experience for visitors to the region.
Let’s begin with a history.
Wicked Finch Farm started out life as a Hudson Valley dairy farm in the 1800s. In the 1970s, it was taken over by celebrity acting couple Ben Gazzara, of Road House and the Big Lebowski, and Janice Rule, of Goodbye, My Fancy.
Fast-forward to 2017. That’s the year Adam Weinstein’s mother passed away, leaving Adam and Mariana Leung-Weinstein with the keys to the seven-acre farm Adam’s parents purchased in 2000. While inheriting a farm unexpectedly would be a challenge for anyone, it was an added struggle for the New York couple, who were more than a little busy with their Manhattan careers. By day, Adam is a real estate manager in the entertainment and media industry while Mariana works on design, marketing, and photography in the fashion industry.
When faced with the choice of selling the farm or keeping it, the couple opted to honor Adam’s parents and hold it in the family. Unsurprisingly, it was a decision that came with a learning curve.
“We were two full-time city die-hards who had never lived outside of an apartment in our adult lives,” Mariana says. “In addition to the physical upkeep and financial obligations, we had to decide on what we could do to make it thrive and whether or not we could turn it into a business that could change our professions.”
To support their new project, the duo dipped their toes into a number of endeavors, all while maintaining careers in New York City. First on the to-do list was making the property into a home — and not just for themselves.
“We started with decorating and updating the farmhouse into an Airbnb,” explains Mariana. Now available for rentals, the country escape charms with four bedrooms, common spaces, and picturesque grounds just outside of Pawling central.
Additionally, the couple also make the farm available as an event, photography, and wedding venue. Through her background in fashion, Mariana has been able to introduce New York fashion brands to the Hudson Valley.
“The natural beauty of Dutchess County was a perfect backdrop for an eclectic designer like Byron Lars, for whom I recently did a shoot,” she notes. “It is also the perfect setting for several themed wedding shoots that I styled (and baked, floral-arranged, and fashion-designed), like our Steampunk Wedding and Wildflower Bride.”
As Mariana and Adam relish the chance to intermingle their New York City lives with their new Hudson Valley ones, they continue to delve further into the Valley way of living.
“We are not fully-fledged farmers (yet!),” Mariana jokes, “but our first batch of jam was made from the blueberries we grew on the property.”
Indeed, Wicked Finch’s jam is becoming something of a signature item in the Hudson Valley, thanks to its appearance at the Pawling Farmers’ Market and at local craft fairs. Of course, that might be because the jam is a little more, ahem, spirited than the grocery store variety.
“[Adam] grew up obsessed with jam and I am a cocktail enthusiast, so I decided to make preserves for grown-ups,” says Mariana. The line of “Boozy Jam,” which is also for sale on Etsy, may be in its first season, but the three varieties on offer already hint at the flavorful greatness to come. According to Mariana, Prosecco + Strawberry pairs well with triple-cream brie, while Bourbon + Blueberry dresses up foie gras mousse and Gin + Citrus delights as a grill glaze or as a zippy topping on cheesecake.
The jams tie in with the couple’s plans for workshops at the farm, which they hope will go part and parcel with developing the property into an all-in-one Hudson Valley destination.
“We are getting ready to hold workshops to teach others to make “Boozy Jam” or “Foraged Cocktails,” where guests can visit to make artisan foodie gifts while feasting on local cheeses, baked goods, and bibles produced by local makers,” reveals Mariana.
Although the pair keep up the work grind in New York City during the week, they appreciate their new lifestyle upstate.
“The grind of both of our careers was taking its toll,” Mariana says of their decision to move to the Valley. “We needed a place to live life that wasn’t always in the city.”
Home sweet home, indeed.