Wouldn’t you agree that Gardiner’s major orchard owners are the backbone of our community? The Dressel’s, Tantillo’s, Jenkins-Luekin’s and Wright’s, whether we realize it or not, are the reason most of us transplant Gardinerites were attracted to Gardiner in the first place.
As with all of these respected families, Tammy Wright Boylan, of Wright’s Farm on Route 208, seems to have Gardiner in her DNA. In 1903, her great-grand.father, Charles B. Wright, bought the original 100 acres at that loca.tion. Between 1950 and 1970, her grandfather, Theodore R. Wright, greatly expanded the farm, fol.lowed by additional expansion by Tammy’s dad, Ted Wright, Jr.
In the 1990s, the Wrights pur.chased a separate 40-acre par.cel behind the landmark Kettle-boro Schoolhouse, further north on Route 208. They farm this land too, and have no intention of selling it—or any other portions of their 450 acres—unless it becomes fi.nancially impossible for them to sustain farming.
In 1998, Tammy and her husband, Mike Boylan, who grew up virtually next-door to the Wright’s and started working at Wright’s Farm in 1982, also bought the histor.ic LeFevre house. At that mo.ment Tammy discovered that she is a direct descendant of the original patent holder, Si.mon LeFevre, which means that that house has never left the LeFevre family!
Farming is difficult and risky. As a sixth-generation farmer myself, I know that you never have enough money and you’re always at the mercy of the weather. But, through the unpredictabilities, Tammy remains admirably resilient and upbeat. A smart and en.ergetic businesswoman, she is capable of pivoting with minimal stress. She said, “One minute you’re farming, the next waiting on custom.ers, the next being the baker, the next being the marketer, and the next being a trouble.shooter.” In it all, she finds her purpose and joy.
I asked Tammy what she envi.sions for Gardiner 100 years from now. She replied, “My goal is to never sell the farm. I hope that my grandchildren will still be able to farm when I am gone. That’s probably why I am so passionate when speaking to you. I’ve never thought of going anywhere else. We had plans of putting in a golf course, but that was to help subsidize the farming, as well. Everything we think of doing is to help us continue farming.”
She went on to talk of their three children, the fifth-generation of Wrights who eventually will own this land: Colin, age 30, Saman.tha, 28, and Mackenzie, 24. All three are now working together to create a Gardiner Brewery Company. Colin has started growing hops and they are cur.rently re-purposing the origi.nal barn—that Tammy’s great-grandfather built 100 years ago—into the brewery.
Tammy’s dad, Ted Wright, Jr., now age 79, has had a huge impact on the farm’s develop.ment. Starting in 1960, he tran.sitioned the business away from livestock (mostly dairy cattle) into the vast array of fruits and vegetables that is now their stock-in-trade. Today, he runs their main business: the pack.ing house and storage facil.ity, plus he monitors the store. Through the 1970s and 80s, he also developed the flower busi.ness into the stunningly seduc.tive displays of potted hanging flowers that line the roadside. The Wright’s biggest seller, apple cider donuts, is also her dad’s brainchild from the mid.80s. Have you noticed that it’s impossible to buy a donut there that isn’t fresh?
But it was the legendary Grandma Ann whose “instant-heaven” homemade pies in.advertently blossomed into a substantial business. There are many varieties, and they are all so delicious that high demand was inevitable. In Grandma Ann’s memory, the family now hand-decorates each pie box—a personal touch on the outside that amplifies the love inside.
Tammy’s daughters help run the store, and Tammy grows all the lettuce and cucum.bers hydroponically, and all the starter tomato plants. At home, they raise both egg-laying chickens and meat chickens to sell at the store. They, too, buy locally, and have done so since long be.fore it was fashionable.
Every day, the Wrights brain.storm ideas that will make farming profitable. When I was a kid, farming was about raising things and selling them. But for local farmers in this new millennium, it’s that, PLUS constantly inventing new products to sell, maybe adding a summer stand for ice cream, displaying eye-catching quasi-garden cen.ters to help us beautify our porches, marketing pick.your-own strawberries and apples and—during the nippy harvestseason—devisingfun family-oriented attractions.
To live near the world’s capital of the arts and finance—yet still be able to stop every day to buy “dilly beans” and “bread and but.ter pickles,” helps us stay grounded, refreshed and energized. Sure, you may have to spend a little more than at a supermarket but, seriously, have you ever TASTED the goods at Wright’s, Tantillo’s and Dressel’s?
With luck, and our support as customers, these wonderful farms might still be here 100 years from now.