|by Judy Van Put
photo credit Judy Van Put
Sullivan County, New York FARMSTOCK series of working farm tours continues this summer, from May through September, 2012 with a great lineup and variety of farms. This is the third year of the FARMSTOCK events, created by the Sullivan County Farm Network in 2010, to increase awareness in farming activities in Sullivan County and to strengthen communication between those who grow food and those who consume it.
On Sunday, June 27, FARMSTOCK was held at the Silver Heights Farm and Nursery, along Route 52, Cochecton Center, NY. Trina Pilonero, who runs Silver Heights, moved with her husband, Ted, to the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York in 1990. Having been raised on a farm in Kansas, Trina gravitated toward gardening; she took a Master Gardening class through the local Cornell Cooperative Extension and in 1994, she began raising a few heirloom varieties of tomatoes. After friends and neighbors sampled her delicious and vigorous tomatoes, word spread and before long, Trina was in business supplying local farmers markets, the New York City Greenmarket and more recently, the GrowNYC and Green Guerillas community gardens, as well as the Edible Schoolyard project in New York City public schools.
Having been a seed saver and heirloom seed specialist for about 20 years, she began her nursery in her backyard high on a hillside outside of Jeffersonville, NY. She moved the nursery to its present location on part of the Gorzynski Farm along Route 52, Cochecton Center in 2005, in order to be more accessible to her customers.
All plants are grown organically, and are certified by NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC. This year, Trina has produced Silver Heights Farm’s 11th catalog of her certified organic, heirloom and unusual open-pollinated vegetable transplants. She specializes in plants that perform well in the shorter, cooler summers of New York’s Catskill Mountain region; and takes pride in the open-pollinated plants: Open pollinated plants are the unheralded champions of our agricultural heritage. Their amazing genetic diversity has been developed and shepherded through centuries by families and farmers alike. Gardeners and farmers once routinely saved a seed crop every year for next year’s bounty. Folks selected seeds from plants that exhibited valued characteristics so that they could enjoy this year’s bounty in the following years. Saving seeds once had a recognized, valuable place in the circle of life.
The Silver Heights nursery makes use of modular tables, so they can be broken down and stored over the winter in the cold frame, along with the plants that are over-wintered. The tables are painted in bright colors for interest, Trina explains, because once the seedlings grow, what on them is just green.
In late May and June, once air temperatures reach about 80 degrees, a shade cloth is used to cover the large 20-foot-by-84-foot cold frame. This drops the inside temperature by 15-20 degrees, and is important to keep the interior temperatures down as much as possible. The structure is built in four-foot sections to accommodate the snowload in winter, and a roll-up system is employed that even a small woman can handle.
In early spring, three to four more helpers are on hand for the busy time of planting the trays of seeds. Trina uses 10 – 20 row seeders to plant the individual seeds; each year she prints out 80,000 plant labels which are well-organized with a library of labels filed away by variety and variety she has at last count about 300 varieties just of tomatoes.
Starts are planted in rounds mainly for the New York City customers, as the demand is from two to three weeks, even one month ahead of the Sullivan County farmers markets. Silver Heights produces three rounds of greens, for example, and as they sell out, they switch to raising spring vegetables and herbs; then summer vegetables and so on. There is a good variety Asian and specialty greens and plants.
For more information visit www.silverheightsnursery.com
or call 845-482-3608.