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 5 of 10)

F.W. Battenfeld & Son

Red Hook, Dutchess County

The name Battenfeld is synonymous with anemones — and Christmas trees — in Dutchess County. Since 1906, this 260-acre farm has been a family business, begun by current owner Fred Battenfeld’s grandfather and great uncle.

In the early 20th century, wealthy Hudson River estate owners brought gardeners from Europe to recreate the magnificent gardens they had visited abroad. At one time, the county was the violet capital of the country. “Names like Violet Hill Road in Rhinebeck and Violet Avenue in Poughkeepsie evolved from this cottage industry,” Fred tells me. Gradually, gardenias, then orchids, replaced violets as the most popular corsage flowers. In the early 1950s, the Battenfeld’s business transitioned into anemones. (The Christmas tree business also started in the late ’50s.)

In summer, planting is the main activity. When I visited in July, Fred showed me eight greenhouses filled with 140,000 sprouting green plants. From February through April, 50,000 to 60,000 anemones are sent to Manhattan, Boston, and Washington. “We take the flowers to New York City, and they are sent via FedEx all over the country,” Fred told me. In addition, more than 100 acres are dedicated to Christmas trees. With about 1,200 trees per acre, this means that each year there are thousands of trees to choose from.

“I enjoy being self-employed, having the flexibility to manage my time and decide what is important,” Fred said. His son, Lane, a member of the fourth generation of the family, will ultimately take over the reins and — maybe — allow him to slow down.

Next: Ronnybrook Farm in Pine Plains

 

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