On a cold day in February, I dropped in at Wright’s Farm Stand on Route 208, had a cup of coffee and bought five pounds of snack-sized apples for 99¢. Then I looked at the amazing display of homemade jams, jellies and relishes before sitting down with Ted Wright, his daughter Tammy and her husband Mike Boylan, and Ted’s grandson Colin, to hear the story of the family farm. (Mike and Tammy’s daughters, Samantha and Mackenzie also work the farm.)
Ted’s parents, Charles and Elizabeth Wright, bought the farm in 1903. Back then it was a dairy farm, and as the family grew to include 10 children, Charles and Elizabeth also planted apple trees, cultivated a large family garden and raised chickens for eggs and meat. They took the milk to the creamery in Gardiner in milk cans. In 1904, they opened a fruit stand under the maple tree which still stands by the old farmhouse. Their first commercial apple orchard was planted in 1910, mostly in McIntosh apples. Of Charles and Elizabeth’s 10 children, only Ted, with his wife Ann, stayed to work the farm.
In 1959, the cows were sold and the Wrights went into full-time fruit and vegetable farming. They have spent the last 52 years—as the farm increased from 108 acres to 500 acres—planting, worrying about the weather, hiring migrant labor, storing apples and finding markets for fruit. I asked, why farming? There are so many other options with less work, fewer headaches and more financial reward. The answer, from all three generations, was immediate; “It’s the lifestyle,” they all agreed. “It’s about taking care of the land, working it in each season. It’s about renewing life and hope and inspiration each spring and working together as a family with a common goal.
What can the Gardiner community do to support the farm? We can speak out against the plethora of government regulations that strangle small businesses with laws and paperwork that keep them from competing with corporate agriculture, but the big answer is obvious, BUY FROM THEM! The farm is open all year, every day, from 8:00 to 6:00 (8:00 to 7:00 in the summer). Visit www.eatapples.com and discover all the wonderful offerings at Wright’s Farm, from apple picking and picnics in the orchards to great homemade pies, jams and jellies. Skip the supermarket. Instead, stop by Wrights, and make it part of your buy-local routine. We all share in the benefits of keeping farms alive and well in Gardiner.