Local Farmers 08 Apr 2010 07:54 pm

Joe O’Brien of Healthway Farms

Last Saturday I spoke with Joe and Rhonda O’Brien of Healthway Farms. Joe’s known for his potatoes, but also grows apples and vegetables.  We talked about the weather, the view from his farm, and the shopping habits of Greenmarket customers.

Joe and Rhonda O'Brien, Healthway FarmsWhere is your farm located?
Highland New York, just below New Paltz.

Tell me a little about your Farm. What’s the area around it like?
From the kitchen window you can see the Shawangunk mountains. There’s some New York reserve land on the other side of the road that goes up there. At the end of the road there’s another orchard. We run 50% vegetables and 50% orchards.

Apple Orchards?
We have apples, a few peaches, a few apricots. Not a lot  — a few trees of this, a few trees of that.

Is the farmers market your primary business? Joe Explains his  Potatoes to Karol
95% farmers market.

Just in New York City?
Also in Albany and New Jersey

How long have you been at McCarren Park market?
This is our third season.

Aside from McCarren Park, do you sell in other New York Greenmarkets?
Union Square on Mondays

Do you have a crop that you consider your speciality?
Potatoes. Then we back it up with apples. You see the herbs are coming in now too. potatoes are probably number one; the fruit is number two.

Do you have potato varieties that you go with year after year? Or do you switch them up a lot?
With any new varieties we try to not copy anyone else – we try to find something that’s unique.

How do you find them?
Seed catalogues, research… you gotta search them out. You notice we have Adirondack red potatoes, we got five or six different kinds of fingerlings. Yukon Golds everybody has — we’re always searching to try something unique. You don’t see many guys growing lettuce gardens. Everybody grows tomatoes, everybody grows apples; We try to separate ourselves. That’s what we’re looking for.

It’s early April: what’s happening on the farm?

Apricots are in bloom right now. We’re starting to spray the apples. The greenhouses have been taking off real good with the warm weather. We hope to be planting peas within the next ten days: As soon as the ground dries out –  we’ve had a lot of rain.

Adirondack Red Potatoes from Healthway FarmsShell peas?
Mostly sugar snaps. We do grow a few shells and a few snows, but mostly sugar snaps.

Do you grow anything organic?
No, its all mostly conventional growing practices. We try not to use systemic types of chemicals  — more contact type, where the bug has to actually eat it, and it washes off and doesn’t go into the fibers of the plant.

Has the farm been in your family a long time?
No, actually I bought this farm. I rented it before. I guess I purchased it in the  late ‘80s.

How did you get started?
My father had a dairy farm up by Cooperstown. And I managed a potato farm after I got out of school.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?One of Joe's Adirondack Red Potatoes
Well the weather’s probably the biggest one. And the economy right now. A lot of people, they come here and it’s ‘we’re gonna buy potatoes today or tomatoes or corn’ and ‘well there’s an eggplant’ … there’s a lot of impulse. They tend to spend more than they anticipated and they shy away the next time. Some people shop regular and they’ll shop everything. But everything looks good. It’s like, don’t go the grocery store when you’re hungry.

Healthway Farms
Joe and Rhonda O’Brien
740 South Street
Highland, NY 12528
845 883-7484

6 Responses to “Joe O’Brien of Healthway Farms”

  1. on 12 Apr 2010 at 10:35 am 1.Sophie said …

    Great photos, great interview! Joe’s pretty cool, huh? Glad to finally find your blog. See you at the market.

  2. on 13 Apr 2010 at 8:59 am 2.janiejaner said …

    Tks so much for this, Dave–great to know some more about Joe, who’s one of our faves at McCarren. We love the little ratte fingerlings we get in the Ardeche in France, and Joe’s assortment comes closest. They’re great for warm potato salad!

  3. on 13 Apr 2010 at 5:14 pm 3.daveklop said …

    Jane — you should try the reds & blues. Their color is amazing!

  4. on 13 Apr 2010 at 5:15 pm 4.daveklop said …

    Sophie — thanks for weighing in — sorry you had to look so hard for the blog!

  5. on 04 May 2010 at 3:07 pm 5.Danielle N said …

    I worked for Joe and Rhonda before. There are both great people and have great potatoes, apples, corn, and many others.

  6. on 06 Dec 2014 at 10:33 am 6.Concerned Citizen said …

    I’ve worked for Joe and Rhonda before and had the WORST experience.

    They are abusive to each other and their workers, calling them names, screaming in their faces.

    They do not grow their produce, they purchase it from other farms.

    If you do not believe me, go to their farm and see what you are buying!!!!!!!!

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