I started The Alleged Farm in 1995 when my wife and I moved to Washington County and bought an old house and 148 acres. I knew I wanted to do something with the land. And I figured that even organic farming had to be better than having a job. Plus the commute was easy and I was assured a steady supply of fresh produce.
We have eaten well all these years and the farm has been expanding slowly as I figure out what I am doing. From its beginning on one weedy acre, The Alleged Farm has grown to include ten acres of crops on six fields, five greenhouses, two donkeys, a large washing room, and our sons, Sam and Will.
One thing I have figured out is that specializing in one or two crops would streamline the farm operation. However, I have yet to find many crops that I am willing to give up on. We probably won’t continue to grow Papalo, a Mexican herb with a bizarre aroma disturbingly reminiscent of paint remover and no obvious culinary purpose. And I may be ready to admit that the tropical sweet potato is not perfectly adapted to climate zone 4 cultivation (but then again, maybe not). Otherwise, however, I am hard pressed to think of a crop I would not plant, including fennel, which I don’t like.
Thus we regularly cultivate 65 different vegetables, herbs and fruits—just about anything we think might taste good and survive in this northern climate. Our crop list has over the years included artichokes, epazote, husk cherries, shallots, kohlrabi and lemon grass. Even some of our more ordinary crops might look unfamiliar. We grow a range of new and heirloom varieties rarely seen in stores because their value lies in their flavor, not their ability to withstand the rigors of long distance shipping—varieties such as the red-skinned French Fingerling potato, the orange Persimmon tomato and the bronze-leafed Sierra Batavian lettuce. In addition to our annual crops, we have a small pie cherry orchard that is starting to bear fruit (much to the birds delight) and rows of strawberries, raspberries and currants that usually produce a good crop (much to my younger son’s delight).
We have sold our produce at various farmers’ markets in the area since we started the farm. At present we attend the Saturday market in Glens Falls. In 1998 we started selling CSA shares, and we now have 180 members and ten drop-off sites in the Albany area. We also sell directly to individuals and to institutions.
In addition to using sustainable farming practices to ensure the long-term health of our land, we have placed a conservation easement on 120 acres of our farm. This easement, held by the Agricultural Stewardship Association, guarantees that this land will be preserved as open farmland forever.