An Opening Note
Bialas Farms is a family-run farm in Orange County, New York. We grow over 80 different varieties of vegetables on our 55 acres of beautiful muck soil. We currently have 3 greenhouses in which we grow a vast number of potted herbs, the best arugula you’ve ever tasted, and an assortment of baby greens for late-season sale. Our family first started selling our produce at farmers markets in 1992.
We are now on our fourth generation of farmers here on Celery Avenue, although Bialases past farmed nearby before this land was acquired in 1939. You can read more about our journey below.
Check out our “Product List” to see what we have planned for this year. With more than a dozen varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes to choose from, we know you won’t be disappointed. We hand-wash and sort all of our heirloom tomatoes - keeping them in the best shape possible for you to enjoy. Be on the lookout for our exclusive signature tomato, the “Polish Plum” [accept no imposters!]. They are not available in any store or catalog and we save our own seeds to plant year after year. Buy them when you see them, as they’ve become such a favorite at all of the markets they never last long!
As always, we’ll have our amazing selection of greens. Despite weather-related obstacles, we can always count of Farmer Sonny to keep them growing beautifully, so it’s easier than ever for you to get your daily dose. Try something different this year; you may find a new favorite!
FYI: We are planning on doing many more Open House markets at the farm this season after the markets close. Check back here or visit us at the markets to get the details.
Thanks to all our ‘regulars’ for your many years of support, and we look forward to meeting new faces at the markets every week.
Sincerely, and with great appreciation,
The History of Bialas Farms
Our story begins in 1939 with Sophie and Francis Bialas (our grandparents). Francis (or Frank, as he was known) and his family had farmed for years, not mass quantities, but just enough to get by. It was The Depression after all. He and Sophie purchased a few acres of prized Orange County Black Dirt on Celery Avenue, where Sophie had lived as a young girl. They farmed the few acres with their young and ever-growing family.
Frank and Sophie started with celery. The seeds were planted in the greenhouse in February and transplanted into the long rows outside in late April or early May. Harvesting would start in August, with the celery being cut (by hand, like we still do it), washed and boxed into wooden crates. They would then be shipped by truck to Hunts Point and sold wholesale. Once some ground was available in the fall (after the celery harvest), spinach was planted and harvested several weeks later. This way they had a bit of money coming in after the main crop was gone.
As the years went by, more acres were added (totaling 55) and more kids were born (6 altogether) and Bialas Farms was in full swing! Everyone helped out, too. Our grandparents worked all day with the hired help, and when the kids came home from school they'd go out to work so Babci (Polish for Grandma) could come home and cook dinner for 8 hungry farmers!
When I was born (1970) we were still growing celery, but that would end before Jeff came along in 1973. Celery was very labor intensive and it just wasn't financially feasible anymore. It seemed as though everyone in "the Valley" was switching to onions, and Bialas Produce had been packing onions for other growers, so it only made sense for Bialas Farms to grow them too. Switching to onions, however, didn't solve the money problems. Each year seemed to find Bialas Farms in debt. Finally, in 1984, Babci Sophie decided to retire (Grandfather Frank had passed away in 1965) and give Dad (another Frank) the opportunity to purchase the farm. He did so, and we continued to work like mules and lose money year after year.
A neighboring farmer had spoken with Dad about the possibility of selling our produce at farm markets, and in 1992 Mom and Jeff convinced him to give it a shot. Our very first market was in Middletown, about 15 minutes from the farm. Dad had given them a small parcel of the worst land on the farm, and they planted, harvested, and sold whatever they could from the makeshift stand downtown. They did surprisingly well, and Dad decided to give NYC’s Greenmarket a try. We started with 2 Greenmarkets in 1993: 102nd Street in Manhattan and Albee Square in Brooklyn . We’ve tried out many different market locations over the last 15 years, but we’ve finally settled into a market schedule that works for the whole family.
We’ve done well in the markets, and with each year we've expanded our product line while reducing the amount of onions grown. Up until 1999, we still grew about 12 acres of onions. Last year we only grew about 2 acres. Orange County Onions are typically a storage onion, therefore selling them in January or February would give the farm a bit of income in the winter months.
We now start several crops in our three greenhouses in early March and transplant them outdoors when the weather allows. We also use them to grow a wide variety of potted herbs in the spring. (Plus, it gives kids a warm place to play in the dirt in the winter!) We’ve found it necessary to lengthen our season by growing things inside the temperature-controlled environment of our green houses.
Most crops are sown from seed directly in the fields. Dad plants throughout most of the summer and into fall, so we can continually harvest things like radishes, cilantro, spinach, and broccoli.
As time goes by, with farmers making up less and less of our country’s population, some of the simple things have been lost. We’ve tried to bring back some of those flavors from the past by selecting heirloom varieties of certain crops. Several years ago we started experimenting with Heirloom Tomatoes and they were a hit right from the start. We have been trying many unique varieties of “old standbys” like Tuscan Kale and Cheddar Cauliflower. They are quickly becoming favorites and always sell out - if they even make it to market. Sometimes family comes first! And we always sample the sweet corn - cooked AND raw! - before we bring it to market, so you can rest assured it’s the best you’ve ever had.
We’re starting to move things a little ‘closer to home’ these days. With the owners’ (Mom and Dad) desire to slow down a bit, it’s becoming more important than ever to us to preserve our farm and family values. Our Open Houses at the Farm have been so successful in the off-season that we plan to host many more in the future, and not only at holiday time. We want to educate people about the way our food is grown, but we also think it’s important to take the time to appreciate nature and family and how valuable those things are in the grand scheme of things.
Thanks for taking the time to read about the history of our family farm. We are proud to continue the tradition of bringing the freshest produce to customers around the Hudson Valley. We appreciate your business and your friendship. After all, we can’t do this without you!