When life gives you lemons, make goat cheese

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:33

    Farmers change, adapt and grow to get through the winter — and life GOSHEN — If there are two words that best describe farmers, they are tenacity and adaptability. Farmers know how dig in and hold on when the going gets tough. But more importantly, they know when it’s time to make some changes in the way they’ve always done things. What makes farmers hold on, battling drought, floods, crop-damaging insects, and government regulations? The answer is simple. “We love farming,” said Doris Bialas, the owner with her husband, Sonny, of Bialas Farms. They are the fourth generation in the Bialas family to farm 55 acres in Goshen’s black dirt area. They’re now producing 80 varieties of vegetables. But it wasn’t always this way. Sonny’s great-grandfather started in 1939 growing celery. Later, he switched to onions. Now the onion crop is reduced and replaced with other produce that includes potatoes, squash, rutabagas, beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips, and, says Doris, the “best arugula you’ve ever tasted." The Bialases added greenhouses and use their barns for storage to lengthen the growing season. “It’s the only way to do it, unless Mother Nature is on your side with a warm fall," said Doris. "People call it Indian summer. We call it good luck." If they’re kept at a low temperature with the right humidity, vegetables like cabbages, carrots, parsnips, and beets can be stored for five to six months, thus extending the selling season. Sonny keeps an eye on the outside temperature and either uses a fan to bring cold air in or lets Mother Nature do the cooling. “Staying in business is our goal — adapting as we go along,” Doris said, with Sonny echoing, “Adapting is the only way of staying in business.” To market they go Along with selling fresh produce at weekly farmers’ markets, some farmers are selling from their property. The Bialases open their barn before Thanksgiving and Christmas so that customers can buy fresh produce, baked goods, honey, cheese, beauty aids made from goat cheese, and more. The W. Rogowski Farm on Glenwood Road in Pine Island not only hosts the Pine Island Farmer’s Market during the growing season, but holds an indoor market the last Saturday of each month from January through March, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. “People come all winter to shop for produce and buy from their favorite vendors,” said Cheryl Rogowski. The rest of the family calls her the “main farmer." With specialties like “awesome” butternut squash seed oil; “yummy” sweet potato butter; jams and jellies made in the Hudson Valley with fruit from the Hudson Valley; cheeses made from cow, goat, and sheep milk; grain; flour; grass-fed milk products; vinegars; olive oil; plus much more, it’s a good thing the Rogowski’s Farm Market Store is open year ’round, beginning in March, seven days a week, from 9 to 5. During the winter it’s open on weekends only, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We’re aspiring to have everything available that after shopping here, you can go home and make a meal,” said Cheryl, who says she loves to cook. Be sure to allow time for breakfast before shopping, said Cheryl. The popular “Breakfast on the Farm” is every Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A supper club offers a six-course meal on the first Friday every month. Reservations are required for the supper club. The Rogowskis have adapted to changing times and altered the way their great-grandfather, Leonard Filipowski — one of the area's first settlers — farmed the 150 acres of black dirt. His son Walter started the business, and, until the 1980s, it was an onion farm. Through the years, a variety of crops have been added, now totaling in the hundreds. Cheryl said a “force of nature” — an unknown infestation — was ruining their onion crop. She had three options: fumigate the property, with unknown results; stop farming; or change the way they’ve been farming. “We chose change, and we’ve been evolving ever since,” she said. It's still summer in the greenhouses keep “We’re strong people,” said Denise D’Attolico, who with her husband, Vinny, own D’Attolico Organic Farms in Pine Island. "We just have to keep going." Hurricane Irene wiped out all of their outdoor crops. But their three greenhouses are helping them recover. They don’t use their greenhouses in summer, but in winter they keep them packed in preparation for the farmers’ markets that begin in March. Besides salad greens, onions, shallots, garlic, and more in the greenhouses, they grow 10 different types of sprouts, like radish, broccoli, wheat, lentils and sunflowers, in a heated spot in the barn. The sprouts are among their staples. “We have sprouts all year long," Denise said. Vinny’s parents started the farm in 1976. At that time, his mom set aside a patch to grow organic vegetables. When Vinny and Denise purchased the farm in 1982, they carried on his mom’s philosophy: if it grows fine, why need chemicals? “We see farmers spraying with suits on to protect themselves," Denise said. "You have to ask, 'What are we eating?’” The D’Attolicos bring their produce to farmers’ markets all year long, including going to New York City in the winter. But it isn’t enough to make ends meet. During the winter, Vinny delivers oil for Quinn Oil. “It’s the only way we make it,” Denise said. They were ready to pick greens, beets, and carrots when the storm hit. Early fall is their best selling time and sees them through the winter. But as with many black dirt farmers, picking their fall crops didn’t happen this year. Something else did, though: Warwick Farm Aid. “This really helped us out,” said Denise. The extra money allowed them to seed their greenhouses. “It’s the best gift we’ve had," she said. "When the community comes together to help, it’s the best. A very emotional time." Coming to farming as an adult hasn’t daunted Denise’s enthusiasm. Working with nature gives her quiet time to think. Denise passes on this advice, “If you have stress, have a little garden.” She’s especially happy that her six-year-old daughter gets to be outside, working with nature. “The bonus is that she eats all of the veggies right from the garden," she said. "I’m happy we grow organic. She picks and eats.” Keeping cozy with wine and music It’s a business that’s “always growing and evolving,” said Randy Maduras, events director at the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery on Little York Road. What began with an apple orchard has grown into a multi-faceted business bringing the best the Hudson Valley has to offer to the public, she said. The business opened as a winery in 1994. It all started with a young boy’s interest in farming. The driving force behind the winery’s success is Jason Grizzanti, who as a youngster saw opportunities and acted on them — first by setting up a fruit stand selling apples and pears gathered from his father’s orchard, and then by running a “U-pick-it business.” His next venture, making cider, earned him acclaim from The New York Times as producing the fifth best cider in the world. With his passion for farming, Jason, who graduated from Cornell University's College of Agriculture, has continued to provide exceptional products, including brandies and, most recently, liqueurs in addition to wines. The winery imported a steam-fired German copper still, and in 2002, upon receiving a New York State micro-distilling license, became the first licensed distillery in the Hudson Valley since prohibition. Using an aged bourbon barrel, Jason developed fruit brandies and liqueurs like Bourbon Barrel Aged Apple Liqueur, Sour Cherry Cordial, and others. He sells them under the brand name American Fruits. In a renovated old apple-picking house, he provides guests with a pleasant atmosphere where they can sip wine, listen to music, and, through the Pane Café and Bakery, feast on bread made from scratch, pizzas, sandwiches and salads, using the on-site kitchen garden and locally grown products whenever possible. “It’s a cozy, pleasant place to be,” Randy said. With no cover charge, it’s an affordable way to spend an afternoon, have wine, a pizza and enjoy live music, offered every Saturday or Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m. “There’s no pressure,” she said. During nice weather, music plays on the patio. The Winery hosts music festivals four times a year, with five to seven groups each day. The music of Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Johnny Cash have been featured at the festivals. Wine tasting is available daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. Picturesque weddings and private parties, accommodating over 100 guests, are held in tents at the apple orchard, in the tasting room, in the dining area, or on the new patio. Consumers get their share John and Diana Lupinski of Lupinski Farms on Houston Road in Goshen got involved last year with the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. The Lupinskis say the venture has "helped out" their farm. Through the CSA program, farmers offer a number of shares to consumers, who, in return for purchasing a share, receive a box of seasonal produce and other farm products throughout the farming season. “We partner with a fruit person, but everything else is ours,” said John. The choices include radishes, leafy greens and arugula, potatoes, corn, cabbage, pumpkins, and tomatoes, among others. To get started, they stuffed mailboxes with flyers. The response has been good: from 150 flyers, more than 30 people have signed on. “We started with honey last year as a bi-product of having bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables,” said Diana. The Lupinskis plant 10 to 15 acres of their 25 acres of black dirt farmland. “We’re a mom and pop organization,” said John, who has been president of the Orange County Farm Bureau for the past 18 years. What he had to say next sums it up for all local farmers: “We know what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue.” Staying in business is our goal — adapting as we go along.” Doris Bialas of Bialas Farms, Goshen