Down on the Farm
For their soon-to-be-published book, Hudson River Valley Farms, author Joanne Michaels and photographer Rich Pomerantz visited more than 40 dairy, produce, fruit, and flower farms between Westchester and Albany. Here are profiles of 10 of these farms — and their farmers — taken from the text
(page 1 of 10)
Pine Island, Orange County
Many Polish people, including Cheryl Rogowski’s grandparents, settled in Pine Island to farm. “My mother’s mother was one of the first settlers in the Black Dirt region,” she told me. Acres of black dirt are largely what one sees through the car windows here, while driving on roads reminiscent of rural England.
In 1955 Cheryl’s father purchased the first acres of Rogowski Farm; Cheryl, the former controller at Sterling Forest, now runs it. I was curious to know what made Cheryl leave her career and return to the family business. “I’m totally in love with my farm; she possesses a magical beauty,” Cheryl answered. “When I make my daily rounds of the fields, I’m just amazed at the way the landscape constantly changes as only a living creature can.”
The farm is “certified naturally grown.” They exercise integrated pest management, a cost-effective system that uses a minimum of chemicals. “My father cleared this land by hand, using saws — without chemicals,” Cheryl said. “He used no machinery or even mechanical cultivation.” As the years went by, the farm began to use chemical spray, but stopped in the early 1980s. Cheryl explained chemicals were a necessity for large onion cultivation.
Today the diversified crops on the farm include only three to five acres of onion; years ago, at peak production, there were 75 acres with just that one crop. “This may be the last generation of onion farmers in Pine Island,” Cheryl told me. “The price we get today for onions is the same as it was 20 years ago.”
Next: Tantillo’s Farm in Gardiner