Our Day One Venue: Red Barn at Maple Grove Farm
A conversation with George Bianco, owner of Red Barn and our Day One Host
In planning the 2022 Slow Flowers Summit, it became apparent that we needed a second location where we attendees might gather on Sunday, June 26 to learn from presenters, participate in the floral takeover, and attend the evening welcome reception.
Thankfully, Xenia D'Ambrosi of Sweet Earth Co., a Slow Flowers member and our local host (and speaker), introduced us to her friend George Bianco. The two met through a mutual friend and cemented their friendship through a shared passion for farming. Xenia now raises cut flowers for the Sweet Earth Co. CSA program at Maple Grove Farm and, in exchange, she maintains the private gardens around George's farmhouse.
Based in Bedford, New York, George Bianco has enjoyed a successful professional career in finance and investment. Environmental advocacy and land conservation are his avocation. At Maple Grove Farm, there are cottages, gardens, rolling fields, vegetables, flowers -- and bees. The historic, circa 18th century property was owned by the same family until 1996, when the Bianco family purchased and restored the 28-acre farm.
"This place has been called Maple Grove Farm at least since the 1860s," George explains.
While it looks old, the Red Barn is a modern-day addition to the farm. George designed a characteristic red barn in 2016 and worked with builders to realize his vision. Rather than using it for livestock, "I decided to make it flexible," he explains. "It's similar to a horse barn in terms of its size, but I use it as a party barn."
Classic red, with large barn doors that open to views of adjacent fields, the exterior is finished in reclaimed wood siding and has a beautifully-appointed interior perfect for group gatherings. "The floor is old-growth pine from the beams of a former factory in Brooklyn. The sink area uses wood I reclaimed from a friend's barn and I designed the chandeliers myself - with plumbing pipes wired for lighting," George continues.
"We have had many varied events at the barn," he says. "Milestone birthday parties, rehearsal dinners and weddings -- and even a Barn Mitzvah! Not-for-profits have had bluegrass band events, country-themed galas, and movie nights with a large screen set up in the field. Several corporations have held off-site retreats here. On Sundays, I often see people stop and take a selfie in front of the barn, so I know it has captured a lot of imaginations."
George is the former chairman of the Westchester Land Trust, an organization that works toward land preservation in Westchester and Putnam counties. He is the past chairman of the local Nature Conservancy chapter and serves as current chairman of the Town Open Space Acquisition Committee, which uses tax revenue for land conservation efforts.
During COVID, in collaboration with the Westchester Land Trust, George invited a food justice nonprofit that runs community gardens to use an area of Maple Grove Farm to grow for area food pantries.
As attendees gather in this delightful pastoral location, we are so grateful to George Bianco for his support of the Slow Flowers Summit by serving as our host venue.