Greig Farmis located on 100 acres of rolling farmland in Red Hook, NY. It is a second generation family farm; Norm Greig is our amazing farmer. His father started their farm in 1942, and it was originally a dairy, wholesale apples, and wholesale & pick-your-own strawberries. Norm started farming full time in 1975. Nowadays the farm is mostly retail, with pick your own asparagus, strawberries, peas, blueberries, summer raspberries, fall raspberries, blackberries, apples and pumpkins. The harvest season at Greig farm starts in the beginning of May and finishes up at the end of October.
Greig Farm has made it a priority to grow the highest quality fruit and make it directly available to the public for the past 68 years. It has been open to the public for pick your own fruits and vegetables for more than 60 years and this is its second time working with a CSA. Greig Farm has always planted varieties that feature the best flavor. Nothing compares to the flavor in the field with the heat of the harvest sun on the fruit. Since they are pick your own and allow the general public to roam (& graze) the fields, they do not use systemic chemicals and chose natural predators over the chemical solution.
The Greig Farm produces 9 products for the Southside CSA. The weekly share follows the natural rise and fall of each harvest, size and total poundage of each weekly share varying depending on the weather and farming conditions. The share cant really be broken down accurately into weekly price averages but overall members pay lower than wholesale prices making it a bonanza for fruit fans!
When Norman Greig began farming in the Dutchess County village of Red Hook 17 years ago, his 170-acre collection of dairy pasture, apple orchards and berry fields was entirely surrounded by other farms. Today he has 63 neighbors, none of them farmers. Most commute to jobs in Poughkeepsie or Kingston, and while many have told Mr. Greig they are glad to pass by some bucolic farmland on the way home, here are some of the things they have told him they do not like: the smell of fresh manure fertilizer in the spring, the sound of his tractor, the glare of the barn lights at 3 A.M. when he rises to milk the cows.
All of these, of course, are part of a farmer’s life. But the complaints from Mr. Greig’s neighbors point up a growing tension in many parts of New York State and elsewhere in the country that occurs as traditional farming areas give way, at least in part, to suburbanization and vacation homes. Some communities are passing ordinances restricting farmers; farmers are responding with “right to farm” laws at the state level.
“I’m very much aware that my farm may be worth more dead than alive,” he said. “But this is what I do, and I’d like to be able to keep doing it.”
Major challenge from global competition: Well, it’s funny. When I graduated from Cornell in 1975, the professor said at that time you know, “you’re entering agriculture at a wonderful time because food production increases arithmetically, and the population increases geometrically, and the population of the planet is increasing more rapidly than ever before, and so all you have to do is produce a wholesale market and do a good job and you have no worries”. And that was never true. Since then I thought well, if I could just become retail and take advantage of–I have good soils, I have good climate–if I could just take advantage of my access to market, I would have no worries. And now with free trade, free trade when it started with Mexico and Canada, was one thing, but now we’re doing free trade in a way with the world that we had never done before.
What’s happened is my main competition used to be what was sold in the supermarket, or what my neighbors produced pick your own. And what’s happened is that the supermarket prices continue to fall on crops that have a high labor co-efficient. And if you read the labels (except for what’s grown and packed by Grand Union, which is never grown and packed by Grand Union, it all comes from some farm or someplace), typically it happens from the southern hemisphere or Asia, the transportation is inexpensive, and the labor is nothing. Their apple business, for example, it used to break the market when we got juice concentrate in from Europe at four and a half cents and we thought well, if we could sell one apple to every person in China, we could export all our problems and now China produces apples and puts it in juice concentrate into this market and makes a profit of two cents, and that’s only five years. So, our wholesale retail potential has gone to half of what it was just five years ago. Those are shocking numbers. I don’t know who can make their cost of production decrease as the cost of living continues to go up.
Dilemma of competing with low-priced imports: My problem in the apple business, for example, is that if I’m producing for the same market that the producer in China is, and I pay kind of a minimum of seven dollars an hour here, and the person in China earns fourteen dollars a month, so he gets paid per month what we pay for two hours. And I used to be shocked in strawberry production when I visited production outside of Mexico City, which is also right now entirely in the same market, and they were paying per day what I was paying per hour. It’s quite a contrast.