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 4 of 10)

Philip Orchard

Claverack, Columbia County

How does a woman in her late 60s take the reins of the family business — an apple orchard — and run the place?

After her husband became ill, Julia Philip gradually took over his responsibilities on the apple farm. “Maybe I’m just a bossy lady,” she laughed, trying to explain what she loves about her life of hard work. The farm consists of 100 acres, including 60 acres of fruit trees that produce around 5,000 bushels of apples and pears every year. The orchard is a dynamic, ever-changing universe unto itself, and the owner must learn to understand its rhythms. “You are continually thinking about the weather, and must be out there day by day to evaluate what needs to happen, what you have to do,” Julia said.

Now in her mid-80s, Julia has been successfully running the orchard since 1992 with the help of one employee, a jack-of-all-trades who comes from North Carolina from December through March to prune the 3,000 trees. The weight of the trees must be balanced by tapering them top to bottom, so the sun can reach the entire tree.

Years ago, the orchard had many varieties of apples: Cortlands, Macouns, Golden Delicious, Mutsu, and Macintosh. Nowadays, there are additional types, including Jonagolds, Rhode Island Greenings, Spartans, Empires, and a host of heirloom apples. “I grow what I would want to pick, and I don’t respond to fads,” Julia said, when I asked how she chooses what to plant.

“There is a sense of history here, and I enjoy being a caretaker of the land,” Julia told me. Passionate commitment to her farm is central to the life of this delightful woman with nerves of steel.

Next: F.W. Battlefield & Son in Red Hook


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