A Storm’s Devastation… A New Idea
By Kathy Muessig
From Issue 16: Fall 2012
When the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene finally receded in the late summer of 2011, a plan and vision emerged for Joe Katz and Pattie Eakin. They had watched helplessly as the wrath of the storm swept across their property on Bruynswick Road, leaving three feet of water in their living room and taking with it much of the garden that had been farmed by Joe’s family since 1940. Also washed away was Pattie’s art gallery that, for the past 14 years, had occupied the ground floor of the two story building that also housed her painting studio upstairs. The devastation of that storm seriously impacted many Gardiner residents and this is only one story of a Gardiner couple’s efforts to overcome the physical damage and follow their dreams.
What Joe and Pattie endured was not insurmountable and, fortunately, they could escape after the clean up and travel to visit Joe’s son in Tennessee. It was then that the ideas born of the storm’s fury became a reality: something good was to come of the catastrophe. Inspired and rejuvenated by their travels, they returned home with a vision and determination to not only take back their garden, but to grow it bigger and better. And so, the Bruynswick farm stand was born. They would re-invent themselves by doing what they had always loved—growing and creating—but now they would produce more crops, opening a business that would include selling Pattie’s crafts, Joe’s fruits and vegetables, and baked goods—all done on a scale small enough to allow them to interact with every customer.
Many of us know Joe Katz from his recent years of service as Gardiner Town Supervisor. And so many Gardinerites have taken art classes from Pattie, in her studio, or at SUNY New Paltz, where she teaches in the Lifetime Learning Institute. Now, we have to get to know them all over again, as the gardeners of Gardiner. Starting a business in this day and age is not easy, but the timing of this transition from personal gardening to commercial growing fortuitously coincided with the trend towards buying locally grown and produced foods. This, coupled with Joe’s quirky penchant for successfully growing some plants better suited to California and the Mediterranean, helped launch this new venture last winter.
Joe’s face lights up as he instructs you on how to grow artichokes—a vegetable usually grown in hardiness Zone Seven rather than our local Zone Five. You realize then that you are talking to a man who is doing what he truly loves and (he believes) what he was destined to do all along. He continues to challenge our climate to a duel by producing things like celeriac, kiwifruit and figs, and has plans to introduce us to black radishes next spring. What’s the new “grown local” frontier for Joe? Can olives and avocados be next in his cold frame and greenhouse??
The hallmark of this home-grown business is its owners. Their personal rewards come from meeting each customer and being there to offer tips for enjoying the bounty, right down to the recipe cards accompanying some of more unique varieties of onions or potatoes they proudly feature. When you do go, be sure to set aside time to hear about the workings of the Rube Goldberg-like water pump system, and for discovering one-of-a-kind treasures among the unique crafts that surround the walls of the farm stand.
Their personal approach easily explains why they attribute the early-on success of this venture to word-of-mouth advertising. And, they have made many mouths (and tummies) happy. Pies and breads (think apple and pumpkin); Brookside Farm eggs and meats; local Widmark honey. What’s not to like?
Go; enjoy the good karma they love to share—a little over one year later. 1058 Bruynswick Road or firstname.lastname@example.org.