We spent most of this past Monday touring farms in Orange County in the back seat of a minivan, guests of the local Cornell Cooperative Extension. We’d come up to meet some farmers and to see the area’s legendary black dirt.
That black dirt is no joke: it looks like the purest potting soil you’ve ever seen, deep black and light as dried peat–we kept jabbing our hands in it to see how deep we could go before it compacted–wrist deep every time (we later learned that it runs up to 90 feet deep in some places). It’s famous as a medium for alliums: row after row of onions, shallots as big as tennis balls, garlic. But we also saw incredible eggplants and brassicas and, at Glebocki Farms, some healthy looking artichokes.
We filled those black dirt farmers with pity as we talked about the challenges of running our farm, where vegetables have to fight their way through beds of dense clay to thrive. But we picked up some good hints for growing (including a better way to stake tomatoes) and we met some interesting farmers, including Jeff and Adina Bialas, who grow everything from ground cherries to hops & cotton on a little 6 acre pocket of land carved out of sprawling onion and corn fields.
We stopped for lunch at Quaker Creek Store in Goshen, where we talked shop with extension agents over platters of home-made sausages and pirogies that rival any we’ve ever eaten:
We ended the day at S & S O Farm, whose owners helped pioneer the first Greenmarkets in the city. Their operation has grown to 450 acres since the early days, and as you’d suspect if you’ve ever shopped at their stall in Union Square, they grow everything.
By late afternoon, we could see that we’d have to outrun a ferocious-looking thunderstorm to get home, but we took our chances and stopped in at Bellvale Creamery for ice cream on the way, figuring we’d be a little harder to wash away if our bellies were filled with mint chip and Black Dirt Blast.