Tag Archives: new york

It’s All in the Family at Wallkill View Farm

For my independent exploration of Hudson Valley agriculture, I paid a visit to Wallkill View Farm in New Paltz. It is a family-owned and operated farm with an extensive permanent farm market on-site. They sell fresh produce and flowers grown on the farm, as well as products like jams, soaps, and gardening supplies and seeds. The wide range of offerings draws customers in an area abounding with apple farms.

View of the fields


Located in the center of the roughly 200-acre property is the farm market, a group of buildings including the produce market, several large greenhouses full of flowers and vegetable plants for sale, and a bake shop. Standing in the parking lot, you get a view of the brick buildings of New Paltz to the east and of the distinctive formations of the Mohonk Preserve to the west. To the south, invisible to visitors, runs the farm’s namesake stream, the Wallkill.

view of the garden center

Three generations of the Ferrante family have farmed this land and sold their produce on-site. Founders Peter and Carol have been succeeded in the business by four sons and three grandchildren, although Tim, one of the sons, mentioned that his father still works there.

The open season at Wallkill View stretches from the end of March until Christmas Eve, and they offer varying produce and products during those times. According to their website (check out http://www.wallkillviewfarmmarket.com/), in spring they offer a wide range of annual and perennial flowers and herbs, as well as trees and shrubs. Summer is the right season for fresh fruit and vegetables, including seasonal favorites like sweet corn and berries. In fall they have a pick-your-own pumpkin patch and hayrides, and regional favorites like apple cider and cider doughnuts are available inside. To round out the open season, they sell Christmas trees in December–these they don’t grow on the farm.

asparagus season!

It is currently asparagus season–something of a controversial vegetable, in my experience; people either love or hate it. I asked Tim about vegetable popularity–surely there are some that just don’t sell as well as others? He agreed, of course there are hot-ticket items like corn and tomatoes, which sell very well. On the other hand, he said “You grow some stuff and you can’t give it away.” However, he explained that, as in any business, it’s a learning process to discover which crops work and which don’t with the customer base.

We also talked a bit about the family-farm dynamic. Tim remarked that the reason he stayed in the business was to be with his family, and he’s happy to see that the younger family members are keeping up with the tradition. When asked why he thought the average age of farmers in the US is fairly advanced, and what he thought the challenges facing young farmers were, he suggested, “The biggest problem of starting up is probably the cost–you know, the land, the equipment.” Small farms, though, are likely more manageable, as long as you market well, he remarked. Having a farm in the family is also helpful, since we saw many farmers this semester who have to search for and rent land; the young Ferrantes already have the land to farm, should they want to continue the practice.

IMG_4132Wallkill View was an interesting contrast to the other farms we visited in class. As a family-owned and family-run business, it differs from some of the other farms whose farmers and owners were not one and the same. Wallkill View also seems a bit more commercial than some of the other farms, offering products and produce from other farms as well as their own. They also were, if my memory serves me, the only farm I saw that relies on its own store instead of taking its produce to market. Overall, it seems like a charming and accessible option for New Paltzers and travelers alike to buy produce and locally-made products.

Sisters Hill Organic Farm

Sisters Hill Farm SignThis Sunday I visited Sisters Hill Farm, a CSA in Stanfordville, Dutchess County.  The farm was founded by the Sisters of Charity of New York in 1998 on land that had been left to the congregation, with Dave Hambleton being hired as the head farmer.   Under Farmer Dave and the farm director Sister Mary Ann Garisto the CSA was developed from scratch, growing from having one acre in production to five.  It now provides fresh, organic food to 200 members, with produce also being distributed to soup kitchens, pantries, and those in need by the Sisters in the Bronx, who started the farm with the goal of providing healthy food that nourishes the body and spirit while helping the local community and the earth.

While visiting I talked to Alison, one of the apprentices for the 2014 season.  She and the other two apprentices live at Sisters Hill and spend the season working and learning from Farmer Dave, with each getting a chance to run the farm for a week at the end.  The four of them do all the work themselves and Alison says Dave is amazingly efficient, organizing everything so well that they only have to work 45 hours a week, which is low for farmers.  When I visited things were just getting started, with a lot of plants still in the greenhouse, but the first pick up date for members is going to be in only three weeks.  Sisters Hill greenhouse

The season usually runs from Memorial Day to the first week in November, but if you renew your membership you get a special Thanksgiving share too.  Since that was the last offering everything the members got from it was still up on the chalkboard seen below.  To go with all those vegetables you could pick up a turkey at Thunderhill Farm down the road, which also provides the eggs sold at Sisters Hill.

Sisters Hill Thanksgiving

Pick up days are on Saturday and Tuesday, though Saturdays are busier, partly because a lot of the members are weekenders from the city.  There are weekly newsletters with recipes and notes from the farmers and people are also often talking and swapping recipes while picking up their food.  In addition to what was harvested for the shares, members are also allowed to pick a set amount of produce on their own, directed by signs on how to harvest the different kinds of vegetables.  This is especially fun for kids, allowing them to not only to see where their food is coming from but to chose it themselves.  There is also a flower garden from which you can pick a certain number of stems a week.

No flowers yet I'm afraid
No flowers yet I’m afraid

The farm has plenty more plans for the future, having recently gotten some cameras to make educational videos on farming and to film a time lapse of the growing fields.  Farmer Dave also plans to renew trails on the farm land where people can walk, run, or bike.  When the trails are done, regular exercise sessions will be organized so that the farm can meet its goal of improving health by encouraging healthy habits as well as healthy eating.

To learn more about Sisters Hill Farm visit their website here!