A family pulls into Minard Farms on Hurds Road in Clintondale. The little boy runs a few steps in front of his mom and dad, eager to get to an afternoon’s worth of hayrides and apple picking out in rural Ulster County.
Debbie Doubrava, who co-owns the orchard with her husband Derrick, hears the couple talking to their son about the hayride. Her smile slips into a slight frown. Although the sun is shining, wind is whipping powder from the gravel driveway up into tiny dust devils — a storm is on the way.
“I’m really sorry you guys, but I shut down the hayride. We’ve got a tornado watch,” Doubrava says.
“Oh,” the mom says with a slight pause. “OK.”
As the boy tugs at his mom’s sleeve, it seems clear he’s a little crestfallen. The matriarch of the apple orchard notices, and urges the family to come back again the next day. When the boy comes back to the register a few seconds later, clutching just one apple, Doubrava waves him through with a smile. She gives him the fruit on the house.
Despite a slow day spent bracing for the storm, Doubrava chats with the customers who’ve dared brave the break in the rain. She smiles, cracking jokes and pointing out different varieties of apples. The farm stand sells Galas, Sansas, Ginger Golds, McIntoshes, Macouns, Fujis and a lot more — along with peaches, nectarines, pears, Indian corn, gourds and goodies.
Outside of the farm stand, they grow apples commercially and press their own cider. All told, they farm about 190 acres of trees. Derrick and Debbie Doubrava took over Minard Farms in 2003, moving up to Ulster County after having lived on the North Fork of Long Island for years.
“I was a banker, my husband was in construction. We wanted to spend more time with our children. We bought a farm because we thought, ‘how hard can this be?’” she jokes. “In an answer to the question how hard can this be — very.”
A part of the Hudson Valley Apple Trail, Minard Farms focuses on being family friendly and offers pick-your-own apples along with Halloween pumpkins at the farm stand.
The farm itself has been around and actively cultivated for more than 100 years. But this year, 2012, has featured strange, strange weather that had a lot of growers on edge earlier in the year. Minard Farms lost 25 to 30 percent of their overall crop.
Many gardeners saw their flowers bloom a bit too early this year too. The same is happening to apple trees — so people who come looking to run on apple routine should also beware. “If you’re looking to pick a certain variety on a certain week, and you’ve done it for the last 10 years – come up a week or two before,” she says, “because that apple probably will be ready two weeks earlier.”