The Farmer's Daughter|
Our blog is written by Jennifer Shea, Dan and Cathy's oldest daughter. Jennifer is part of the 13th generation of Schoonmakers to work on Saunderskill Farm.
Strawberries Grown in Our Greenhouses
May 16, 2013
May 1st on the Farm
May 1, 2013
Blueberry Buds End Of April
April 25, 2013
The walls go up!
March 23, 2013
Loading Dock Expansion
March 14, 2013
Meet The Family
March 2, 2013
A few years ago we were asked if we as a family would be interested in staring in a reality tv show about family farms. We were asked to write about each family member involved and what our business was all about. At first I thought, Hey this could be neat, people could actually see what it is like to live and work on a family owned and operated farm. So I went ahead and wrote this 'bio' of the family. When I was all finished I realized it would be a terrible idea!! I am sure the tv show producers would pry into our lives and find things to make the show super entertaining and it would not be about farm life at all. So I never sent in the application. Tonight I came across the document I had written and thought I would share it with you folks. It was written 2 years ago so not all the numbers are accurate, but it will help you to understand just how Saunderskill Farm works in a nut shell--
The history of Saunderskill Farms (named for the tributary of the Rondout Creek that flows through it) is as rich as the soil that has supported it for 12 generations. Originally granted to Lieutenant Hendrick J. Schoonmaker by Peter Stuyvesant in 1663 as payment for military service, the families original 300 acres of prime Rondout bottomland has been continuously farmed since 1680.
Second in age only to the Hull family farm in Southhold, Long Island, Saunderskill Farm now includes more than 800 acres of vegetables, flowers and orchards. The stone manor house, built in 1787, still stands on the property, as does the barn that housed oxen used to pull barges on the Delaware & Hudson Canal, a section of which meanders through the property. Saunderskill is one of the few farms in the nation to have received the rare Tercentennial Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Saunderskill Farm is located in Accord, New York. We are in the heart of the beautiful Hudson Valley approximately 90 minutes North of New York City. Saunderskill Farm has been handed down from father to son for 12 generations. The farm is currently owned and operated by John L Schoonmaker and his two sons, Daniel L Schoonmaker and David J Schoonmaker. The farm consists of a wholesale and retail business that grow and sell various fruits, vegetables and garden plants. Our wholesale business sells to Farm Markets in Burgen County New Jersey, Price Chopper Grocery Stores and other local markets. Our retail business is a 13-year-old farm stand about 1 mile from the home farm.
The growing season starts in February when the 15 greenhouses on the home farm are filled with annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and vegetable plants. 10 of the 15 greenhouses are heated with corn that is grown, harvested and dried on the farm.
500 acres of fruits and vegetable are farmed by the Schoonmakers. David and John manage and work the fields. John (Grandpa – ‘Tomato Jack’) at 78 years of age is still farming. He has been farming all his life, he is happiest when working on his tractors or in the fields. He works hard to keep the farm alive for the next generations. There is nothing he takes more pride in than his family. Every one of his 7 grandchildren admires him for the strong, hardworking, loving man that he is. During the winter he always has a project he is working on. Whether it is his 1946 Jeep CJ2A that he has painted and restored or a tractor that he has taken completely apart to paint and tune up. You will also find him clearing brush from the canal or around the various fields. When the green houses open he often has hose in hand helping with the watering or filling up the dirt bin to keep the planting of pots, flats and baskets moving. When it comes time in the spring Grandpa is out in the fields preparing the soil for the years crops. Planting the seeds, praying for a good season. He continues to help with the harvesting of produce. Every morning you will find him sitting on the packing line in the cornfield inspecting the ears of corn as they are harvested for sale. Grandpa is the heart of this farm. He lives and breathes it. The amazing part about this man is as hard as he works, and as tired as he must be, he makes time for everyone. No matter what he is doing he will stop, say hello with an enormous smile, give you a hug and a pat on the back with his gigantic hands.
He and his wife Alice Schoonmaker have three children. Daniel, 55, David, 53 and Diane, 51. They moved into the stone farmhouse in 1962 to raise their family and still live there today. Alice Schoonmaker or (Grandma) is the family and town of Rochester Historian. She has uncovered and preserved all of the Schoonmaker family history.
David Schoonmaker (Uncle David) is a true farmer. He has a vast knowledge of plants and the environment they thrive in. He is out in the fields at 4:30 a.m. and is often still on the tractor as the sun is setting. He tends to all the thousands of plants in the green houses, he knows exactly when they were planted, when they need water, how much sun they are getting and when they are ready to be sold. I cannot even begin to explain the dedication and work this man puts into these houses. You have to see him in action to believe it. Not only does he run and organize the houses, as well as care for all the plants, he always has a wrench or screwdriver in his hand fixing something or tinkering with a leaky system. He has this incredible personality and sense of humor. I think you have to when you work as hard as he does. He always has a smart remark he is muttering and sometimes you wonder if he is serious or joking! Before the green houses are empty Uncle David is out in the fields preparing for the seasons plantings. There are approximately 20-25 part time employees at the farm that help with things such as planting, harvesting, packing and delivery. He delegates what is to be harvested and when. He also handles the pest management and many other aspects of the farms daily operation. It is nearly impossible to list all of the duties that any of the family members take responsibility for. (I haven’t even mentioned irrigation and that is a big job in a dry season)
At this time I would like to talk about Renee Schoonmaker. She has responsibilities on the farm as well as at the farm market, so you will hear about her again too! Renee is Daniel’s youngest daughter. She is 24 and currently attending Cobleskill pursuing a degree in Agriculture Management. She attends school during the winter semester when things are a bit slower on the farm and then takes the spring semester off to help on the farm. Renee is the lively spirited one of the family. She always has a smile and a great story to make you laugh.
Renee works in the greenhouses alongside Uncle David. She helps with the seeding, watering, transplanting and care of the flowers. She has come along way in the last few years and has learned a lot. When the market opens in April her time is split between the two locations. She is responsible for bringing the plants from the farm to the market. This is a task that is never complete. On a busy day the flowers are selling as fast as she can bring them. She helps with watering at the market as well as displaying the flowers for sale. Renee also helps with the planting and care of the 4,000 mums that are sold in the fall. During the summer you will find her doing various tasks for Dan and Dave. She may be helping to bring the corn home from the fields or pruning the raspberry bushes. Some days you will see her bee bopping around on the zero turn mower working on her tan, singing loudly and off key. All and all she is a hard worker and is very passionate about where she lives and the family she works with. Renee is fortunate to live in a farm owned house at the beginning of the lane. We all live within view of each other. It is incredible to live so close to family, at the same time you can get away with nothing!
Before we talk about the farm stand I would like to mention all the produce that is grown on the farm and sold in the market and to our wholesale customers. As mentioned earlier we start the greenhouses with annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, combination pots, and vegetable plants. In the spring are the delicious strawberries and asparagus followed by sugar snap peas, snow peas, and English peas. As the temperatures warm and summer approaches we have green beans, green and yellow squash, cucumbers, Kirby’s, eggplant, raspberries, blueberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and peppers. In the fall we harvest apples, pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds and winter squashes. We also grow and dry soybeans and corn. As mentioned earlier our green houses are heated with corn, as well as 5 homes on the farm.
Saunderskill Farm Market and Greenhouse opened in 1998. The market is managed by husband and wife Daniel and Catherine Schoonmaker. They are assisted by their daughter Jennifer and Son-In-Law Ryan Shea. Dan and Cathy Schoonmaker have been married for 31 years. They have 3 daughters, Jennifer, Jessica and Renee. The idea of a farm market was brought up by Grandpa when Cathy found out she was pregnant with Jennifer. Although the business was put on hold for the next 16 years, Dan and Cathy planned what they would expect from their market and what they would like to offer their customers. Saunderskill is a very unique farm market; we offer our customers a clean, fresh and friendly shopping experience.
Our Greenhouse has grown over the years tremendously. We have a beautiful selection of annuals. We cover all the old favorites such as petunias, impatients and salvia, as well as some unique annuals like bacopa, tarenia and scaveola. We offer a large selection of hanging baskets including spectacular combination baskets and planters.
We have an extensive collection of perennials, as well as a growing selection of trees, shrubs and fruit trees. The green house offers a wonderful assortment of pottery, potting soils, mulch and garden supplies. It is truly a gardener’s haven.
Across the way the farm market workers are busy preparing the various items for sale. We offer an extensive bakery with the majority of products baked right on premise. The oven is always filled with pies, croissants, muffins, scones and cookies. For breakfast we also have a menu of bagel, and bialy combinations created by our customers. An example is “The Tuttle” which is toasted raisin pumpernickel bread, smoked salmon, lettuce, red onion and our homemade vegetable cream cheese. Early in the morning apple cider donuts are made fresh daily, the aroma fills the building and become irresistible to all.
We offer our customers a vast selection of items for lunch. Every day we have a homemade soup changing with the seasons, Spring Chicken Soup or Curried Pumpkin soup are some of our favorites. Fresh made sandwiches and wraps, as well as various garden salads are among the lunch items we offer. We are known for our delicious chicken salad and fresh tuna salad. Prepared food such as 3 cheese macaroni and cheese, Sheppard’s pie, eggplant parm, and lasagna are a few of the many items’ we sell for a quick dinner option.
We sell all of our homegrown fruits and vegetables in the market. We also local produce grown by neighboring farmers. Every Saturday morning we receive a fresh delivery of local organic salad greens. In the summer months we offer fresh cut flower arrangements. Saunderskill also has grocery items such as milk, yogurt, cheeses, locally smoked meats, local beef and fresh chickens. Our market has all the ingredients you need to cook a fresh delicious meal.
If you were to come to Saunderskill with your family there would be lots to experience. We have indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch or soft serve ice cream. There is a beautiful coy pond that children really enjoy. We offer pick your own strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. In the fall we have pick-your-own pumpkins, horse drawn hayrides, a corn maze and an antique tractor pull. We end our season at Christmas by selling handmade wreaths, swags and centerpieces.
Dan is an extremely smart businessman. He is very good to his customers and takes the time to get to know each and every one. He really values their business and has become friends with many. Although his day is spent at the market, he is still very involved with the wholesale business. His day starts by handwriting all the bills that will be sent with the delivery trucks. He heads to the farm at 5am to get things organized and on the trucks. He arrives at the market at 5:30am to open the building and welcome any customers that come in looking for a cup of coffee before we open at 7.
Dan oversees the scheduling of approximately 30 employees, does the ordering, manages the property, waters the flowers, sweeps the floors etc. He is always busy doing something and will do whatever it takes to keep the place looking it’s best and his customers happy. The thing I admire about him the most as a businessperson is that he is always prepared for any situation. He is always one step ahead.
Dan’s wife Catherine’s job is indescribable! She is a hard working women who wears many hats of the business. She does the book work and pay roll for both the wholesale and retail business. She assists Dan with ordering, selects all the pottery, gift items, grocery items, flower seed, etc. You never know where you will find Cathy, she maybe washing dishes, meeting with a salesman, training a new employee, answering the phone or picking basil for a customer from the garden. She puts in long hours and is willing to do whatever it takes. She has a wonderful eye for displays, plants the most amazing combination of flowers and makes a delicious shepard’s pie. Her only fault is she wants and tries to do it all. Saunderskill farm is her passion, she loves the excitement of the business.
Jennifer and Ryan Shea assist Dan and Cathy with the market. They just recently had a little girl, Elouise, who is the 14th generation. Before Jennifer had Elouise she was very much involved with managing the bakery and overseeing the store. She is now staying at home with Elouise, but they come visit a lot! Ryan helps Dan with opening the market in the morning. He grills approximately 120 lbs of chicken a week that is used to make chicken salad and sandwiches. Three years ago we started doing a BBQ on the weekends selling local beef hamburgers and hotdogs. Ryan has helped organize that as well. Ryan has been working at the market for 3 years now and is very enthusiastic and eager to learn the business. He loves being part of the family.
That is a ‘quick’ overview of our family farm. We are a hard working family and we love what we do!