A resident of New York City, I visited Saunderskill Farms while in the Hudson Valley during my spring break. Looking out into the vast and open farm land, I was able to feel an immediate sense of tranquility, a welcoming respite from the city’s traffic noises and crowded sidewalks. In both a literal and figurative sense, I experienced a breath of fresh air, a respite from the constant commotion of the city.
The stillness of the atmosphere along with the general friendliness of the staff were captivating to me. So were the delicious sandwiches and soups I tried out that day. The decadent homemade cookies, their top-selling baked goods, did not disappoint.
No wonder Saunderskill Farms is a hotspot for those new to the Catskills area — such as visitors like myself from the city — to unwind and to get a taste of all that this alternate realm of New York has to offer.
Saunderskill Farms, home to one of Hudson Valley’s most historically rich places of interest, officially reopened its doors for the season on April 6. The family-owned acreage, granted by Dutch colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1680, has maintained its high standards for agricultural goods through eleven generations and now its twelfth. On the same rich lowland soils of the Rondout Valley granted to the first Schoonmaker in exchange for military service, it continues to carry on the traditions of the Schoonmaker family.
The farm is one of the few to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tricentennial Award. The stubborn Schoonmaker vision visible in a stunning bucolic landscape has displayed extraordinary endurance, a trait recognized by those who visit. The farm reopening is always well anticipated by a multitude of families around the region.
Featuring 300 acres of abundant, nutrient-rich land, Saunderskill Farms, open Tuesdays to Sundays from 8 a.m, to 5 p.m., immediately catches the eye of the passerby. Its grounds typically hold a multitude of visitors at any time. “Our history, being a generational farm, is what got them here,” explained store manager Ryan Shea, a part-owner of the farm. “They’re looking for [both] the food and the atmosphere.”
Building sturdy relationships with customers is important in running today’s successful farm: “The friendliness of our staff is, I think, first and foremost, on their minds.”
While pick-your-own produce is not yet in season, the market already draws an abundance of visitors. The fresh products range from freshly cultivated apples, pears, and blueberries to pre-cooked meals, as well as the favorite homemade baked goods.
Ryan says that baked goods are one of the farm’s staple products, bringing back many of its most loyal customers. “I would say that our baked goods, [notably] our homemade cookies, are most popular,” he said. “Also, our sweet corn, when that comes into season.”
The distinctive quality of these items is apparent to customers. They achieve a freshness only accomplishable by the natural means that the family-owned farm prioritizes. Beginning this summer, pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries will be available. Customers will be able to hand-select the quality fruits of their choosing. The interactive nature of pick-your-own produce provides for a bonding experience for families seeking summertime activities.
The products are not limited to produce, however. The farm also includes a greenhouse featuring a diverse selection of annuals, perennials, and vegetable plants, along with tools and appliances for them. Come this fall, the greenhouse will be offering an even larger selection, including pumpkins, corn stalks, gourds, hayrides, and more. The farm will also open its abundant corn maze for all visitors to experience free of charge.
Saunderskill Farms hosts events throughout the seasons for visitors of all ages. On April 30, the place will hold a free event with the Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association, featuring horse-related activities perfect for the whole family. “The draft-horse event [is] always a great one for younger kids since there’s a petting zoo,” Ryan explained. There will also be numerous activities to keep adults entertained, including wagon rides and a performance from the Ben Rounds Band.
Several more events will be coming up this fall, including pumpkin-picking, a fall corn harvest, and an antique tractor pull, Details are available on https://saunderskill.com/events/. The farms’ reopening this spring signifies only the beginning of far more to come.