There is nothing I love more in the summer than some fresh produce, especially corn. Altobelli Family Farm in Kinderhook, NY seriously has the best corn in town. Their farm stand is my go-to spot in the summer to pick some up as well as other delicious vegetables for dinners and BBQ’s. While their corn is my personal favorite, they also have a wide variety of other crops they harvest from Spring to Fall that you can enjoy. Not to mention, the owners, John and Becky, are the nicest people who truly love what they do. So, let’s learn more about Altobelli Family Farm and the hard working family behind it!
Farm Name: Altobelli Family Farm
Owners: John and Becky Altobelli
Established Year: originally 1956 – Dominick Altobelli
Farm Location: 1202 Old Post Rd, Kinderhook NY
Tell us more about how your farm was established and how it’s evolved into what it is today.
John’s grandfather, Dominick Altobelli and His wife Dominica purchased the farm in 1956.
It was apples, pears, and small vegetables. He also owned Pelham Produce in Pelham, NY and would sell the fresh produce there. John’s father and mother ran that business and John came up to Kinderhook to help his grandfather. After he passed away, John expanded the farm in to more vegetable than fruit, clearing apples to make room for corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers, cukes, eggplant, winter squash, and pumpkins.
What does your farm specialize in and what is it that you harvest and sell?
Our main crops are corn and tomatoes. We plant corn in stages, several varieties, so the harvest is staggered through the season lasting into fall. Early varieties are covered with Row Cover that allows sunlight in, rain and air, but keeps damaging frost off. We aslo plant what’s called bare ground, which is planting without the row cover. We usually plant 120 to 140 acres of corn and sell it wholesale to Fresh Direct in NYC, Dave’s Market in Rhode Island, and at our stand.
Tomatoes are seeded in our greenhouses, germinated, transplanted, and then planted on black plastic that has a drip line for irrigation close to the roots. All tomatoes are planted, staked, suckered and tied three times for maximum growth. Each plant supplies about 30 lbs of tomatoes. We do 2 plantings of tomatoes as well as 900 plants in our greenhouse. Our other vegetables are also planted on the black plastic with drip tape irrigation. – squash, cukes, peppers, eggplant. Winter squash and pumpkins are bare ground planted. We have three pond that we irrigate all crops with.
The fact that we rotate crops all over the 240 acres of the farm, using organic compost, and cover crop such as rye, enriches the soil and gives back vital nutrients that crops need. After harvest, the ground is turned over, seeded with rye and in the spring, it is harvested for fellow farmers’ use for feed, then the roots of the rye are disced back into the soil and then planted. “Take care of the land, and it will take care of you”.
When is your busy season and where can people find and buy your products? What is your top seller?
We begin in March for flowers and also start our seedlings. Planting starts in May and by the 3rd week of June we begin harvest of summer squash, corn follows in July with tomatoes and peppers. Our stand opens for produce around the 12th of July and goes thru Labor Day.
What do you love most about running a farm? What do you think is the hardest part?
John knew when he was very young he wanted to be a farmer. His weekends and summers were spent at the farm. He learned a lot from his grandfather, but also from Henry Brosen who he worked with for many years. Honestly, the hardest part of farming is employees. Its hard work, long hours, and demanding. We use the H2A program which is a government program for immigrant contracted workers from outside the USA.
Criterias have to be met and approved by the labor department and wages are set. But We have a wonderful crew that knows this farm as well as we do and take pride in their work. Its hot and hard work, but our crew, 6 men and 2 women make our lives a little easier.
What has been one of the most rewarding things about owning and operating your own farm? Is there a memorable experience or opportunity that stands out to you?
I think the recognition of the quality of our product is the most rewarding. We set the bar high. We have been working with Cornell for corn and tomato trials and over the years we’ve weeded out (no pun) the higher yield and quality of selections. The biggest experience for our farm was whe Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture paid a visit to our farm in 2018. He was on a tour of Columbia County Farms and we were invited to be part of the tour by US Republican John Faso.
It was such an honor. When his team had visited a few days before, we offered them raw corn to eat – not knowing it doesn’t have to be cooked. They must have said something to Sonny, so when he arrived and got out of the car, he asked me if I expected him to eat the raw ear of corn he had his driver stop and pick on the way in. He and John were like two old friends, eating corn, and swapping stories. It truly was a memorable day.
In your opinion, why are farms so important and what is one misconception that you think people have about them?
Farming has been the way of life to sustain life. Food is the fuel for our existence. Seasonal food was either dried, salted, canned, or put in root cellars. Then we were able to evolve to freezing and refrigerating. Preservatives came along and also trade and importing. The hardest part of farming is pricing, middlemen, and actually marketing. People don’t realize that photoshopped picture isn’t real. Consumers have no idea of the hidden costs that go into farming. That pump that irrigates those tomatoes runs on diesel. That cover crop of rye is a farmer’s expense. Insurances, equipment, packaging, and its all a disaster if you have crop failure from either hail, drought, too much rain, insects, or plant disease.
What do you envision for your farm in 10 years from now and how can people continue to support you?
10 years from now? We’ll still be doing what we’re doing, maybe on a smaller scale, but once a farmer always a farmer in some form. Nothing is better that that golden goodness of a kernel of corn or that first tomato sandwich fresh from the garden, the sunrise in the morning, the warm summer breeze and that breathtaking sunset in the evening.