A beautiful family-owned farm since 1939, Hemlock Hill has staying power and we’re so glad they do! Providing us with fresh, organic produce, free-range chicken, eggs and beef – this is a farm worth visiting. And to make it even more convenient the Farm Store located on the property is open 7 days a week all year. I had a great time meeting with Laura DeMaria, the ‘farmer’s daughter’. Laura is joined this year by her cousin Trish who came here from San Diego to garden and a few other family members. At one time or another all of Laura’s sister’s worked the farm and its something that Laura hopes as she has a family of her own one day, they too will be part of.
Name of Farm
Hemlock Hill Farm
500 Croton Avenue
Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567
How long has the farm been in the family (history of the farm)
Officially since 1939, so I’m 3rd generation - I grew up on the farm with my sisters. When my grandfather bought the farm it was used for dairy, and it was my father that started growing for meat not just dairy. The gardens were always here, tomatoes and other produce, not for sale but for our family and the community. The farm’s name came as a result of all the Hemlock trees on the property.
How many acres are on the farm?
We have 120 acres and we use about 80 between the gardens and the livestock – the rest is wood lot. Its nice too because we’re bordered by protected land.
What do you grow?
For produce we started this year with greens, lettuce, cabbage, herbs, chard and now we have tons of tomatoes, corn, cucumber, zucchini. A little variety of a lot of things. For live stock our main sellers are the cattle and chickens, we have anywhere from 80-100 head of cattle on hand. The chicken really took off this year as more restaurants want the organic, free range chicken. We also have about 50 lamb, Peking ducks and hogs too.
Where do you sell your produce?
We have the Farm Store that’s open 7 days a week. We have a handful of restaurants we deal with and then Fishkill Farms buys our meats.
Do you participate in CSA and/or farmer’s market?
We do have a 20 member CSA with pick ups on Thursdays. We tried it about 15 years ago and it didn’t work but now the time is right. We still have a few shares available for August and I think next year our membership will double.
Tell us about your most successful season?
Thanksgiving is our most successful season, we sell over 1,000 turkeys in 3 days. It’s a lot of work but people look forward to it every year as part of their tradition. Summer is also really good for us, there’s so much work, so many people visit and shop. Last year was a great year, the last three years really. We have lots of new customers and new faces now.
What was your hardest season and why?
Probably about 4 years ago. We received a grant to protect the farm in 2006, but we didn’t receive the actual grant until June of 2011. Once we received that we were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before that it was really a struggle. With the grant we were able to relieve our debt and we can actually see clearly now so we can concentrate on farming.
What is your favorite thing to grow or raise, and why?
I would say cattle, they’re low maintenance, they’re well mannered they really go with the flow . In the winter they don’t mind a little snow, though they do have shelter, they’re just easy.
Is there a lesson that you’ve learned farming that you might apply to life?
One major thing is that a farm life is a very simple life, you have an organic seed, you put it in organic soil and it grows. You watch the animals, they want to be out in the pasture they don’t want to be on a block on cement. Its paying attention to mother nature and allowing things to flow naturally. We’re all dealt situations so the lesson for me is to step back and let it flow naturally – find what the most simple approach is, don’t complicate it. The farm is a hard life but it’s a simple life – you feel very alive.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the farm that you’d like to share?
We just pulled a bunch of fresh garlic and we make a sort of pesto/marinade – blend the garlic down with olive oil and add cilantro or parsley, a little salt, some spices and you make a marinade for meat or vegetables. We add a little Capt Lawrence beer too and its fantastic!