Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Wrights Farm located on Route 208 in Gardiner, NY is more than just the farm stand along side the road. It is a 450 acre farm and orchard owned and operated by the Wright Family since their Great Grandfather Charles purchased it in 1903. At that time it was a dairy farm. The first commercial apple orchards were planted 1910. Currently the farm is Operated by Ted Jr., his daughter Tammy, her husband Mike Boylan and grandson, Colin.
In addition to the 220 or so acres devoted to a large variety of apple trees, Wrights Farm also grows peaches, nectarines, cherries, tomatoes and squashes. The farm stand also sells produce, a myriad of flowers, acquired by Tammy personally, and home made baked goods.
While visiting the first time, Tammy drove me out to the orchards to meet Mike and Colin. from that point on Mike and Colin took me on a tour of the orchard and spoke to me about the day to day operations and about the many issues that a farm faces. Mike explained to me about how the trees are handled in order to get the best yields.
When the trees bloom there are clusters of apple blossoms which are made up of one bud and six surrounding flowers called laterals. To ensure a good harvest and to prevent too many apples from growing and weighing down the branches they have to do crop adjusting and trimming of the trees. The goal of the crop adjustment is to ensure that the King Flower or bud in the center of each cluster sets and grows strongly. They then wait and see which of the laterals look like they will also grow well. At that point they trim some of the other lateral buds so that they don't grow and make the branches too heavy, leading to breakage.
Mike also explained how they only get one shot every year to make a good harvest. Unfortunately he said "Hail, Frost, high winds and drought all determine whether or not that happens". He said that while there are federal funds and aid programs, they often are not enough to cover a serious crop loss.
As a member of Gardiner's Planning board, Mike is very active in working with advocates of Open Space areas and trying to promote local farms. Most of the land that people want to preserve as Open Space though is farmland. As has often been the case in recent years, farmers will often sell their farmland for development because they are either retiring or it has just become to expensive to farm. He explained that while he loves and respescts organic farms, that they still only make up a small percentage of the land that people want to preserve as Open Space. Other larger farms like Wright's make up a much bigger percentage. Yet because of the intimate nature of organic farms which are usually only a few acres each, they tend to get more of the funding to remain undeveloped than bigger farms. Mike says that if people want to preserve the beautiful views in Gardiner then they also need to support the bigger farms as well. He urges people to stop at the farm stands and buy directly from the farmer. Buy Local!