Chenango County forked over much more than a bail of hay last week to New York State officials who toured a unique sampling of three enterprises that make up the local agricultural industry.
After first pitching an inside look at the workings of an environmentally conscious farm – the Tumilowicz Dairy – followed by Agro Farma, Inc., where a massive new market for milk has developed, the tour bus proceeded to the innovative, organic vegetable and fruit growing systems under cover at Norwich Meadows Farms.
The group of approximately 35 state officials and local ag representatives were greeted at the state Rt. 23 site by a sampling table brimming with multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, raspberries and thin-skinned cucumbers. Dishing it out was Haifa Kurdieh, who with her husband, Zaid and his business partner, Dr. Yusef Harper, founded Norwich Meadows Farms in 1998.
Zaid Kurdieh proceeded to lead a brisk walk through the organic farm operation’s 50 plus acres of vegetables and melons, strawberries and tomatoes – all held off the ground on trellises and protected under multiple hoop houses, or high tunnels. The structures keep rain, snow and cold temperatures from the produce, allowing for a longer growing season much like farmers enjoy in a few zones south of Central New York.
The trellis structures consist of metal poles and frames with individual string supports that get attached to the vines as they grow higher. In the case of melons, each fruit is further protected in individual nets. Through a Susquehanna River Basin Commission contract, water is piped in from nearby Canasawacta Creek
“I’ve never seen tomato vines that high before in my life,” commented retired farmer Don Franklin, now chairman of the Chenango County Farmland Protection Committee and one of those who suggested the organic farm be on the tour.
“The place is packed. I’m totally amazed at how much he has. It just goes to show what you can do if you set your mind to it,” he said.
Norwich Meadows Farms currently sells more than 99 percent of its produce through greenmarkets in New York City, such as the Union Square Greenmarket, and also directly to restaurants and stores, like Dean & Deluca.
To keep up with demand, and finding themselves out-of-room at the Norwich farm, Kurdieh and Harper leased additional acreage in New Jersey last year. They are also always on the look out for chefs and large, certified kitchens that can receive delivery of their when it’s ripe and then incorporate it into recipes.