Driving up the long, dirt road into Fishkill Farms, it quickly becomes obvious that you haven’t arrived at a tourist destination. There are no man-made amusements in sight – no inflatable bouncy castles, no petting zoos – Fishkill is first and foremost a working farm and the landscape and the food are the stars of the show. Still, along with that hard working vibe the folks at Fishkill Farms understand the deep value of community in maintaining a small, family-owned farm and invest plenty of time and energy toward nurturing a relationship with their customers. If you’re looking to escape from the autumn brouhaha of other area farms, Fishkill is a great choice for an annual apple- picking outing.
A Farm’s Revival
Originally purchased by Henry Morganthau Jr., United States Treasury Secretary under FDR, Fishkill Farms has been owned and operated by the Morganthau family for more than 100 years. Now in its third generation, the farm is presently being run by JoshMorganthau and his father Robert. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in fine arts, Josh moved to Fishkill with the intention of painting – the farm had long held a special place in his heart and its stunning landscapes had always provided inspiration. He soon discovered that the lure of the land was too strong.
Josh brings a bounty of freshness to the farm’s revival, which began in 2008, and his father remains a steady presence, offering wisdom and support. Josh has a passionate mission to spread the word about the importance of biodiversity and environmentally sound growing practices and four principle tenets (diversity, ecology, locality and community) guide the farm as he and his staff strive to produce fruits and vegetables grown in harmony with nature.
Good for the Earth, Good for People
The farm is proud of its efforts toward sustainability and is a role model for other farms, especially as it maintains 5 acres of organically grown apples, using ecological materials that minimize the impact on the environment compared to the copper and sulfur sprays traditionally employed in organic growing methods. Josh has also worked to grow heirloom varieties including the Roxbury Russet, the oldest known apple in America, meaning visitors will have the unique opportunity to pick varieties of apples not found elsewhere.
Apples are extremely susceptible to pests and other issues such as fungus and disease, yet the farm is constantly exploring innovative growing practices to help them increase their amount of organic acreage. Meanwhile, they also utilize a system of integrated pest management (IPM) for other fruit trees such as nectarines, peaches, plums, pears and cherries, opting to employ organic methods to control pests even when conventional methods are less expensive. One example is having hens roam in the orchard where they feast on the critters that might otherwise feast on the apples.
A Visit to the Farm Store
After harvesting your apples and pumpkins, spend some time in Fishkill’s farm store, which you’ll find burgeoning with local goodness. The store showcases their gorgeous crops along with the efforts of local vendors producing everything from fresh baked goods to wines, cheeses, soaps and ice cream. The farm’s award- winning apple cider doughnuts and pies baked with fruit from the orchard are also on hand.
Pick up a dozen eggs laid by Fishkill’s free-range, heritage breed hens, some of which produce a lovely, pale bluish-green egg. If you’ve never tasted just-gathered eggs, you’re in for a treat. With deep yellow yolks with a rich, creamy flavor, Fishkill’s eggs put the grocery store variety to shame.
While you may not find all the harvest season’s bells and whistles of other area farms, Fishkill Farms’ boundless beauty, and old- fashioned charm provides more than enough in the way of entertainment. According to JoshMorganthau, “Given the scarcity of Hudson Valley farmland, we choose to produce food and not mazes on our farm.” This sums up perfectly the best part of a visit to Fishkill Farms – the low-key, authentic farm experience – and you’d be hard pressed to find a visitor who needed more than that.
Gina Vercesi is a freelance writer with a passion for exploring nature and the outdoors and features off- the-grid family travel adventures on her blog, Kids Unplugged. She lives with her husband and three daughters in a friendly village on the Hudson River.