Tuesday afternoon my girls and I headed up to spend some time at Fishkill Farms, learn the lay of the land a bit, and meet the new arrivals to the farm–a brand-new batch of baby, Rhode Island Red chicks–who would become the newest flock of laying hens at the farm.
First off, here’s a bit of history about Fishkill Farms. In 1913, Henry Morgenthau Jr. (the U.S. Treasury Secretary from 1934-1945 under Franklin D. Roosevelt) purchased land in East Fishkill, New York and started an apple orchard, dairy, and chicken farm.The farm was eventually passed down to Henry’s son Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan’s 9-term District Attorney, who kept it running for many years with the help of a farm manager. After the farm manager retired (about fifteen years ago), the land was leased to other area farmers. Until recently, that is. In 2007, Josh Morgenthau, Robert’s son, a fine-arts graduate from Yale University, decided to take the helm, initiating a long-overdue revival of this beautiful, nearly 300-acre farm in southern Dutchess County.
Josh, who spent summers on the farm as a kid, has a passionate interest in farming and the environment. His biggest project this season has been planting a 5-acre organic vegetable garden in addition to the nearly 50-acres of fruit trees on the farm. The vegetables are grown completely without the use of either pesticides or herbicides and the garden is under the management of Fox and Julia, who are experienced organic growers.
To the orchard Josh has added several varieties of heirloom apples as he works toward minimizing the need for spraying pesticides on his trees. He currently utilizes a carefully monitored Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system. When plucking some baby apples off the trees for my girls to examine he mentioned that they’d been recently sprayed. He went on to say that he feels very strongly about the detrimental effects of pesticides on the ecosystems of the farm and beyond and that when he has to spray at all he chooses products with the lowest levels of toxicity available.
The farm also has a small flock of hair sheep (they shed rather than need to be sheared) and several new lambs were born this spring. The sheep will be used to help improve the pasture and maintain the grass in the orchard.
The girls and I had a lovely time exploring the farm with Josh and his girlfriend, Hannah Geller, who are very excited to have Kids Unplugged join the Fishkill Farms community. Josh and Hannah were generous in both time and spirit, helping the girls navigate their way through the tall meadow grass, pointing out the prickly nettles, and patiently waiting as they stopped to examine wildflowers and insects and roll around on the spongy woodland floor.
I think we’re going to have some fun.