Story by Lon Tytell
The third presentation of the Historical Society’s Second Sunday Conversations, “This Land is Farmland,” was held at the Old School Baptist Meeting House on Sun., Nov. 13.
The event, part of the Village of Warwick Sesquicentennial Celebration 2017, was sponsored by the Village of Warwick, the Warwick Historical Society, the Albert Wisner Public Library and the Warwick Valley Farmers’ Market. Featured guest speakers were Al Buckbee, of Bellvale Farms; John and Dottie Sanford, of Maple Terrace Farms; Jack and Steve Pennings, Jr., from Pennings Market Orchard and Cidery; and Bob Schluter, of Warwick Tomatoes and Techni-Growers.
Before the speakers shared their experiences, Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard informed those in attendance that citizens in the Warwick community used to meet and share their farming experiences before TV was introduced.
“Farm families were instrumental in the culture and commerce of our Village,” said Newhard. He then shared the poem, “Tenderland.”
Penny Steyer, manager of the Warwick Valley Farmers’ Market, spoke of the Purchase of Development Rights program, which has helped preserve the farms in Warwick.
Al Buckbee then spoke of the importance of the good soil and rainfall that has helped many farms in Warwick. “Many Warwick Farms grew grain before dairy farming and the railroad became important,” said Buckbee.
Bellvale Farms, which has emphasized dairy farming, has also branched out to cattle breeding and started Bellvale Farms Creamery, which features award winning ice cream. Buckbee’s daughter, Amy and her husband, Tim Noteboom, own this very successful enterprise. Rye is now being grown on the Bellvale Farms to be sold to breweries and distilleries.
John and Dottie Sanford shared their farming experience. Their business, Maple Terrace Farms, had its origins in dairy cattle and has now switched to beef cattle since 2006. It has recently attracted a retail market. The Sanfords pride themselves on the fact that their cattle feed on grass which is grown by them.
The Pennings family also had their start in dairy farming. Jack and his brother, Steve, decided to change the focus to apple growing and incorporated the “pick your own apples” idea after seeing how this enterprise was successful with Ochs Orchard and Maskers Orchard. Steve then started Pennings Farm Market, which has expanded to a pub, restaurant, a plant center, an ice cream stand, a beer garden, and recently, a cidery. The Pennings use the Ochs Orchard apple press, then ferment the cider and filter it. They now offer 11 varieties of hard apple cider. Steve Pennings, Jr. and his sister, Tori, operate this recent venture. Pennings also grows hops, which they use in their original brews.
Bob Schluter spoke last and gave credit to his father, who liked growing tomatoes. Schluter has experimented with different ways to grow tomatoes.
“Nature figured it out best. Soil is the best place to grow tomatoes,” said Schluter.
In the winter, he uses solar energy in green houses to help grow his produce. He plans to establish an indoor winter Farmers Market at Techni-Growers, located at the former lot of the General’s Garden.