Wright’s Farm, circa 1904, is one of the most bountiful and family-fueled operations along the Hudson Valley Apple Trail that I’ve had the pleasure to write about. In their fifth generation of farming, all three Boylan-Wright children have come back to the farm to join forces with their parents and their grandfather and continue to diversify, expand, grow and market the amazing bounty of their 500-acre farm.
“I think one thing that sets us apart is that most people driving by or stopping at our farm market don’t see the breadth of our farm,” said Tammy Boylan, the daughter of Teddy Wright and married to then-farmworker Mike Boylan, who says, “I fell in love with a farmer’s daughter!” Hidden behind the farm market along Route 208 in Gardiner and stretching to the Gardiner/Plattekill/Modena town lines, and open year-round, the 500-acre farm produces apples, pumpkins, heirloom tomatoes, an enormous variety of cherry tomatoes, peas, cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries…you name it, they grow it!
The expansive farm, which has some of the most magnificent scenic vistas of the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge and the Catskills at its highest peaks, also has a centuries-old airport with a landing strip that not only is host to those who can afford to fly their own plane and go apple-picking for a day, but also serves as a parking area for the ever-popular “pick-your-own” season, as well as the annual Cupcake Festival.
The year-round bounty, growth of the farm and farm market and multi-generational love of the business were things that were nurtured and grown, much like the fabulous produce that the Boylan-Wrights create. Tammy’s great-grandfather Charles B. Wright purchased the property, then a dairy farm, in 1904. “He bought the farm because of its natural springs,” she explains. “There wasn’t electricity back then, so having these natural springs for farming and irrigation was a gold mine.”
Charles was also Gardiner’s justice of the peace, and when he saw the writing on the wall — the construction of the New York City Aqueduct coming closer and closer to Gardiner from the Ashokan Reservoir — he turned his house into the jail and built another house across the street, where he relocated his ten children. “We were literally landlocked from the farm during the construction of the Aqueduct,” explains Tammy, who points to piles of handwritten ledgers where her great-grandfather, then her grandfather and now her father “wrote down everything, from how much they sold to what they bought to how many chickens they had, what Buck and Bill the horses’ feed cost and their behavior, the weather, the rain…my Dad gets mad at me when he goes away because I don’t fill out the ledgers like he does!”
Out of ten children, it was Tammy’s father Ted who came back to the farm to work. “He wanted to be on the farm, but not deal with animals; so that was the switch, as many farms were doing at the time, when the trains stopped running and they could no longer wholesale their milk, meat et cetera.”
Under young Ted’s tutelage, the Wrights’ farm quickly went from an animal-driven dairy farm to an apple farm within a decade. Her father built one of the first cold-storage facilities for the apples to store them and keep them fresh for wholesale. “But we’ve always had a farmstand, from the very beginning,” Tammy notes. “We even had a gas station next to our farmstand to try and meet our clients’ needs – which is what we do to this day!”
Although her Mom and Dad divorced at a young age, Tammy spent all summers and holidays on the farm and returned to her farming roots as a young adult, where she met and married Mike Boylan. Their three children are full-time employees of the farm, each doing a multitude of things but loving working together and infusing the farm with their newfound education and experience.
Colin, 23, who has been coined the “small fruit specialist,” helped to diversify the fruit on the farm when weather set in and destroyed large portions of the family’s apple crops. He grows everything from apples to peaches to blueberries to raspberries, and is now planting a field of hops to expand the market even more by offering homegrown fruit beer. “His beers are delicious!” said proud mother Tammy. “They’re amazing!”