At the tail end of the raspberry season, a bunch of us piled into cars and drove north to check out where our berries comes from. Greig Farm is located in Red Hook, NY, which is part of Duchess County, just East of the Hudson River. We had about 4 cars full of members making the trek from Brooklyn through the gorgeous fall foliage of the Hudson Valley to see the land, pick raspberries & apples & pumpkins, and to hear more about Greig Farm.
We all know how are berries get to Brooklyn; Our buckets arrive hand delivered by Norman in the back of his classic BMW. During this field trip, we were going to learn about the life and times of a berry farmer in the Hudson Valley (and that maps are a good purchase because sometimes the fancy phone can’t get service…)
We (finally) arrived and had a picnic lunch up on the hill among the apple trees. It was an amazing bluebird Fall day. Just perfect for a trip to the country.
After lunch we jumped aboard for a hay ride and tour of the farm by Norman, our amazing berry farmer.
We learned about the history of the farm and the plans for the future. Norman’s family has been farming here for about 60 years. They have always grown many varieties of apples and different types of berries. Back when Norman’s father started farming, apples were not something stocked year-round or imported from New Zealand, Ecuador, and China. In those days, apples were a seasonal treat that sold like gang-busters and this farm was dead center in the fertile crescent for apple farming. Clearly it is a much different market for Norman…
In the works for 2011 is strawberries and asparagus. We checked out the fields and got very excited to hear about these new additions to our berry share. That’s right folks, the plan is (bearing no crazy weather) is to start the Berry share earlier in June w/ strawberries & asparagus. Ooh la la!
Blueberry season had ended by the time we made it up to the farm so we didn’t get to pick any. But we did check out the rows and rows of gorgeous bushes. Norman talked about his commitment to natural farming. As an owner of a pick-your-own farm he is devoted to ensuring that his fruit can go straight into your mouth. That means nothing toxic! He is not certified organic because he does not believe that it is a high enough standard, considering that natural toxins can be used under that label. Grieg Farm sets a high standard and is devoted to providing a healthy product!
We also saw the blackberry bushes. Norman talked about the devastating loss of the blackberry crop this year due to an irrigation failure. During one of those crazy hot days a pipe busted and the bushes didnt get water. He lost the entire crop (except a few that were close to the ground), a $10,000 mishap…
It was really interesting to hear Norman talk about the struggles of a small family farmer. As he tells it, the 10 year cycle of a small farmer is to break even every couple of years, make $$ every couple of years, and go bankrupt every couple of years. He talked story about his bankruptcy and how his fellow farmers rallied to help him stay afloat. His farm was being auctioned and EVERYTHING had to go. His neighbors were surprised to see that all his equipment was up for sale. They asked, “But how are you going to farm next year?” Norman answered with a shrug of the shoulders. That was apparently not the banks concern. At the end of the auction, his neighbors had bought about 80% of his equipment, loaning it back to him so he could continue farming. His brother, a corporate lawyer, bought the land, leasing it to him and other farmers. He laughs, telling us about his son going to engineering school so he can afford to farm when he takes over. He really drove home the point that sustainable farming is not about making money but about a love for the land.
Greig Farm is a gorgeous piece of sloped land. Filled to the gills with apple trees!
Raspberry season was pretty much over, but those who had patience to look closely were able to fill their buckets with an amazing bounty.
Back in the day Norman had about 30 employees; these days he can afford 2. As we searched for ripe berries in the underbrush, we all learned real quick how hard it is to pick raspberries and got a new appreciation for how much work goes into collecting a half pint. It is so easy to get disconnected from our food through factory farming, stocked market shelves regardless of the season, and the ease of globalization. Having walked through the fields at Greig Farm it becomes much easier to appreciate the true cost of our food and the real benefits of supporting those who care for our precious land.
Although we didnt get to pick blueberries, Fall had the added bonus of pumpkins.
For those of us who didn’t have the patience to pick berries, a walk through the gorgeous acres of Greig Farm yielded so much beauty!
Also on the land is this cool little market- Gigi Market. As we walked over to the market for some fresh pie, we ran into a fun family of goats. Now the trip was officially complete!
After a fun-filled afternoon at the farm, we piled back into the cars for the trip home. Thanks to a brutal accident and subsequant highway closure we didn’t make it home until 6 hours later!! Luckily we are all good story-tellers and were still smiling, even after that arduous car-ride! Good times with the fun people of Southside CSA!