Face it, a day in the life of a farmer is tough.
Living under the rule of a sometimes-cruel Mother Nature can be daunting to say the least.
However, there’s also something to be said for the rewards of this wholesome lifestyle. Why else would so many of our farmer families be doing it for generations?
Well, one reason is the happy faces you see in our farmers’ pictorial almanac and the genuine smiles you receive when you visit each farm. They must be happy for some reason, right? Another is the family closeness reaped from growing up on a farm—and the fruition of the seeds planted—so to speak—in the offspring of the offspring of the offspring. A farmer in the Hudson Valley is someone who passionately takes care of the earth for the local communities and beyond—season after season, year after year.
With each season in farming life comes different priorities and various painstaking endeavors in preparation, and the fall season is the crowning glory of them all: the time to reap what they have sown. Now that fall is upon us, we thought it a good idea to see how our local farmers prepare for this glorious, colorful, leaf-peeping time of year.
So, here’s what goes on in a day in the life of a Hudson Valley farmer, straight from the farmers’ mouths:
The Apple Bin Farm Market,
co-owner of The Apple Bin
“Fall is the time to ‘pick it up a notch’ in everything we do. All the prepping of the orchards in early spring until fall is what everyone hopes will bring a fruitful fall bounty for our ‘pick-your-own’ apples in early October. Fall is synonymous with homegrown apples, of course, as well as our homegrown pears, fall squash, gourds, hay bales, cornstalks, pumpkins, and our beautiful hardy mums, which we start in late June. We also offer—as many say—the best apple cider donuts, apple cider, pumpkin pie, candy corn, and all the other goodies that we produce and offer in our farm market all year: breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pies, coffee, gourmet items, holiday fixings, and more. And still in the planning stage is a Fall Sunset Picnic, which will feature artists creating Plein Air paintings of our orchards on the weekend after Columbus Day.”
810 Broadway (9W), Ulster Park
Barthel’s Farm Market,
owner of Barthel’s Farm Market
“Preparing for fall is just continuing what we do all year round, but in the fall, apples are our business. The main thing we do is make our own apple cider. We press our own apples and squeeze out the natural juices into cider. And there are no preservatives. We also focus on homemade pies and apple cider donuts and great fall-themed baked goods with all the zucchini bread, carrots cakes, etc. you need, all ready to bring to the person you are visiting—and one to keep for yourself!”
8057 Route 209,
Hurds Family Farm,
owner of Hurds Family Farm
With the Hurds Family Farm slogan being, “Expect the Unexpected” and this year being their 20th-year celebration, “the family is pulling out all the stops,” says Susan (aka Director of Fun). Susan says, “After networking with other creative farmers in the winter season, we put our heads together and create a business/marketing plan that leads up to our action-packed fall season. After spring planting for fall harvests, we get busy building new and exciting activities our farm venue is known for.” Susan explains that this year they built a giant mountain from pond silt and wood, complete with tunnels for pedal carts and tractors. Along with a newly landscaped pond, there is also a brand new family picnic area. Then came the new “Agritainment” additions of a colorful Apple Bounce air pillow and a Hurds Family Farm Gem Mining Sluice “that visiting camps and families gave a ‘thumbs-up’ rating.” Along with these, we designed an exciting two-acre ‘Clue type’ mystery-game corn maze called Farm Scene Investigation.” Simultaneously, the farmers keep a watchful eye on the important growing projects, tend to the pumpkin patch, and even find time to fix up an historic barn to welcome the many visitors throughout the harvest season. The autumn activity line-up provides both healthy eats and good healthy fun: pick-your-own with apples, pears, pumpkins and raspberries; one-cow train ride, pedal cars and tractor track with tunnels; apple launcher; rubber duck derby; and so much more. Susan encourages guests to ask about their “Family Season Pass” if planning on visiting the farm more than twice during the fall season.
2187 New York 32, Modena;
New Paltz / Gardiner
co-owner of Jenkins-Lueken
“A farmer’s day goes from sun up to sun down!” And preparing for fall is, as Eric puts it, “controlled by a woman known as Mother Nature.” If “Mother” decides to offer sun, you’ll find Eric tending to crops or cutting out the corn maze or collecting pumpkins and corn stalks to offer customers fall decor. “On a nice day, I may also be tending to the bees or collecting honey or pruning fruit trees.” But for Eric, work doesn’t stop with a rainy day. “You may find me extracting honey, sharpening tools, fixing machinery, making and bottling cider, taking water samples, doing government paperwork, ordering supplies, or sorting and cleaning produce to be stored until needed.” This fall, Jenkins-Lueken Orchards will be featuring Yankee Folly Hard Cider that’s made from cider pressed on-site with daily tastings. U-pick berries are a fun family event until the frost, along with U-pick apples beginning the first weekend in September until the last weekend in October. The farm stand has seasonal fruits and veggies and over 30 varieties of apples, as well as delicious homemade bakery items, including apple/raisin nut cake, brownies, cookies, muffins, breads, and fresh apple, pumpkin, peach, and berry pies (in season). And you can call ahead to order a pie, for they go quickly. Eric reminds us, “We also offer grass-fed beef, sausages, cheese, homemade peanut butter, and gift items, including one-of-a-kind hand-designed gourds.”
69 Yankee Folly Rd, New Paltz;
Chris and Jackie Kelder,
co-owners at Kelder’s Farm
The Kelders run a year-round farm with their all-season “Pick Your Own” offerings being a unique feature of their farm. Chris says, “We start with asparagus in May and go all the way through fall with our pick-your-own farm-fresh produce.” But their seasonal abundance of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables is not the only thing that’s homegrown. Kelder’s also offers homegrown, all-age enjoyment, including a petting zoo; homegrown mini-golf with edibles at every hole; its famous mascot, Gnome Chumsky; and a good old-fashioned education about farming simply by observing the fields where food actually comes from. In addition, there’s a fresh farm market, fall corn maze, jumping pillow, honey-making bee tours, and so much more. Kelder’s Farm represents more than just agriculture—it embodies community and catering to its residents. Not only sustenance grows at Kelder’s, but also an appreciation for agricultural life, sustainability, and enriching times. Says Chris, “It gives us a sense of pride to see the positive response to all that we have to offer.”
5755 Route 209, Kerhonkson;
co-owner of Saunderskill Farm
“We prepare for fall from the minute we order the seeds until the last of the harvest is gone. The challenges are sometimes overwhelming, but, as a family, we spend every minute working to create a fun, relaxing, picturesque farm scene for all to enjoy. We plan where the pumpkin field will go, as you can’t grow pumpkins in the same spot each year. We grow ornamental corn, several kinds of winter squash, and beautiful mums, along with many varieties of apple—all in preparation for fall. I guess the “fun” part is decorating for the fall with all the colorful pumpkins, gourds, mums, and fall decorations. Our Fall Harvest is during the month of October—offering weekend horse-drawn hayrides, a free corn maze, and pick-your-own pumpkins. On the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, we also feature an Antique Tractor Pull and Craft Fair. The fall definitely brings a feeling of accomplishment and a job well done (if everything goes right) and, best of all, a light at the end of the tunnel.”
5100 Route 209, Accord;
Wallkill View Farm Market,
manager of Wallkill View
“Getting ready for all of our fall festivities is a family affair. Grandfather Peter and Uncles Rob and Tim plant our pumpkins in our fields in June and care for them until ready for harvesting in October for our special pick-your-own pumpkin patch, which opens October 1 and continues daily through October 31 from 9am to 6:30pm.” Another family member, Uncle Sande, harvests all of homegrown fall vegetables, such as squash, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts for the farm’s market. Danika’s dad, Peter, is responsible for growing the beautiful hardy mums in a various colors and sizes—also available at the farm market. “Aunts Linda and Lisa fill our store with fall gifts and decor and also decorate our store for Halloween, while cousin John designs and creates our corn maze—open for the entire month of October. And Cousin Pete drives our tractor that pulls our hayrides through our fields along the Wallkill River. The hayrides are free and run all day on the weekends in October.” Danika says the bakery is her area of expertise: “We make the best fresh apple cider donuts every day, and on the weekends in October we make them all day long. On the weekends we also make pumpkin spice donuts, which have been a huge hit!” It may take a village in some endeavors—but at Walkill View it takes the entire family.
15 Route 299 West, New Paltz;
co-owner of Wrights
“To prepare for our many exciting fall offerings to the public, we must start planting apple trees, which are taken care of 365 days a year, so we are ready for our popular apple-picking season, which draws in people from far and near. Along with our farm stand and farmers markets, which entails many hours and expertise to give customers the best we can offer, we maintain our orchards in preparation for harvesting nearly 100,000 bushels of apples each year. We also make sure that our farm market is well stocked for our fall-time visitors with not only produce, but jams, pickles, fruit breads, and pies. All in all, Wrights offers a wonderful country-life experience for both locals and countryphiles.” Tammy says her husband and farm co-owner, Michael Boylan, gets up at 4am, adding, “It’s not a 9-5 workday, but it’s to make sure everything’s ready for the pleasure of all who enjoy coming and visiting and partaking of the wares that are offered.” Although a hard task, Tammy insists that they love doing what they do. “It’s wholesomeness at its best,” she says.
699 State Route 208, Gardiner;
Rondout Valley Growers
This area is the home of a unique agricultural organization, the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA). This eleven-year-old nonprofit creates community among growers and facilitates agricultural education for both growers and the community. The growers produce over seventeen million pounds of vegetables and fruit, grass-fed beef, pork, poultry, and eggs each year. Sixty-five growers, thirty-eight businesses, and dozens of friend members support the RVGA's strong collective voice to the community about what local farmers do, what they grow, and the value of community farms. Learn more at rondoutvalleygrowers.org.
Hudson Valley Farm Hub
The Hudson Valley Farm Hub, a new major non-profit center for resilient agriculture, is developing a broad roster of initiatives aimed at strengthening the future of agriculture and the food system in the Hudson Valley. Professional farmer training, public education, crop research, and demonstration of innovative farming techniques are all being planned for the 1,255 acres of Ulster County farmland formerly known as Gill Farms. This fall, Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County continue to collaborate with the Farm Hub on two research projects: a small-grains research trial and a heritage-grain rotation trial. An extensive cover-cropping program focusing on soil health has been instituted across the farm, with Farm Manager John Gill and his crew planting varieties of soil-building crops, such as clover, radish, and triticale. Sweet corn continues to be grown in abundance, and the vegetable garden supplies the Farm Stand on Route 209 through the end of October. For more info go to localeconomiesproject.org.