Perhaps we’ll be calling it “Farm Stand Row.” If and when Al Higley is successful in his bid for a variance to reopen Hanover Farms, and Kham and Jamie Nguyen complete the construction of their 1000-square-foot shop next door, there will be three farm stands within four-tenths of a mile on Route 28 in Mount Tremper. Migliorelli’s, which took over Alyce and Roger’s airy little store in 2012, may have an edge as the easternmost of the stands, well-situated to snag incoming tourists.
“Friendly competition is a good thing,” said Kalene Lauther, who was handling the cash resister at Migliorelli’s on a Monday morning. The Migliorelli farm in Dutchess County has two other stands in the Rhinebeck area and sells at over 30 farm markets locally and in New York City. The farm was established by Italian immigrants three generations ago and is currently transitioning away from past commercial practices to decreased use of pesticides, using contemporary European standards for pest management and other agricultural practices.
Located at the edge of a vast field, Migliorelli’s Mount Tremper store also offers fish, meat, cheese, and many items such as pickles and jams that are prepared on the farm. “We’re having fun here,” said Lauther. “People seem to like the produce, and some people stop by just to chat.”
With the Nguyen store soon to be up and running, Higley’s attorney, Phillip Wellner, said his client “welcomes the stand next door. The more businesses of this sort there are, the better for the community.” After years of on-and-off wrangling with the town of Shandaken over violations of zoning codes by Higley’s sprawling and popular operation, Hanover Farms was shut down in 2013 by a Saugerties judge in response to a lawsuit initiated against the town by Higley. When his effort to apply for variances the following summer stalled, Higley opened a separate stand, selling produce and groceries outside a former bank building in Shokan. The Town of Olive closely vetted his plans and at one point compelled him to move the business from the parking lot to the interior of the building. Then he had a struggle with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection over the sinks used in a doughnut-making setup. Now he is trying again with the Shandaken Zoning Board of Appeals to obtain approval to reopen the Mount Tremper stand.
According to Wellner, last year’s Shandaken application failed because it was caught between the ZBA and the New York State Department of Transportation. “The ZBA denied the application because it was missing information from the DOT,” Wellner explained. “Meanwhile, the DOT was saying they couldn’t issue final approval until Mr. Higley had gotten variances from the ZBA.” Now Higley has obtained detailed recommendations from DOT on the entrance and exit, traffic flow, and parking spaces, addressing complaints from residents about customers parking on the highway and pulling out abruptly into traffic. The application includes new DOT suggestions regarding signage and curbing. Higley is also requesting an area variance regarding the layout of the farm stand on his parcel of land.
Asked why his client is reapplying now that he is established in Shokan, Wellner replied, “The farm stand in Shandaken was an important part of the community, and he’d like to reopen.” If the ZBA issues approval at its August 26 meeting, the application will go back to the Shandaken Planning Board, and a public hearing will be scheduled. The earliest possible date for opening is estimated to be this fall.
In her decision on the lawsuit in 2013, Judge Mary Work set fines for Hanover Farms violations from March through November of that year at $200 per day, plus legal costs. Those fines have not been recovered but were considered at a hearing in front of Judge Work this June. “We are awaiting her decision,” said Shandaken supervisor Rob Stanley, who is hopeful that there will be some award. “Once we learn how much the Town is awarded, we will notify the public.”
A few hundred feet of trees separate the empty Hanover Farms stand from the Nguyens’ shop now under construction at the corner of Routes 28 and 212. Jamie Nguyen said she met Kham, a Vietnamese refugee, at Onteora High School. They married and moved away for several years, then returned to raise their four children in the area where Jamie grew up. Their stand will be a family operation, with the kids and other relatives helping out.
The Nguyens plan to sell fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and dairy products. “Everyone here needs access to affordable fresh foods,” said Jamie. “A lot of work and planning have gone into this. Kham is very good at research and talking to people at the town hall and the Department of Transportation, making sure everything is legal and safe and 100 percent in compliance.” Having followed a year-long application process, they hope to open the fully enclosed store within the month.
As for Higley’s plans to reopen next door, Jamie commented, “Everybody has the need to provide for their family and livelihood.”