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 2 of 10)
Gardiner, Ulster County
A straightforward, hardworking woman who doesn’t aspire to be anyone other than herself, Bev Tantillo was raised on a dairy farm in Vermont. She ended up marrying a farmer herself; they’ve been married now for more than 45 years. Her husband, Len, took over his family’s farm in 1968. All three Tantillo children, now married with families of their own, are involved in some aspect of the farm. In fact, Bev’s nine grandchildren, who range in age from 14 to 18, also work part-time in the family business.
Their 130-acre property includes houses, woods, swamps, and support land where wheat, corn, and rye are grown for sale to other farmers. On the farmland itself, the Tantillos grow pumpkins, squash, cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and rhubarb. “I don’t want to deal with berries,” Bev told me with conviction, explaining how delicate those fruits are, and how difficult it is to keep them in perfect shape so they don’t lose their appeal to consumers.
Every member of the family has a specific talent and each is involved in a compatible aspect of the business; perhaps this is the secret to their success. Bev loves being outdoors and enjoys interacting with customers at the farm’s retail store. Len runs the orchards and supervises the farming operation.
“I vowed I’d never marry a farmer; I saw the hard life when canning vegetables and grinding horseradish for my father as a teenager,” Bev recalled. But then she reflected how everyone in the family seems to love the farm. “There’s a freedom here,” she observed. When I pointed out she was the matriarch of a farm dynasty, she smiled and said, “I guess I am, but I really never think of myself that way.”
Next: Wigsten Farm in Pleasant Valley