Ellie Wilson, MS, RDN Senior Nutritionist
I drove out to Reeves Farm on a sunny Friday, with the leaves just hinting at changing their colors, and found my way down a side road with corn growing on one side, and beautiful rows of eggplant on the other side. Pulling in, multiple barns, buildings, trucks and tractors greeted me – along with a nice gentleman who knew I needed a little help getting to the farm office. Following his directions around the side of one large barn, I parked by a high top green house.
Brian and Mark Reeves are the fourth generation of their family to farm in Baldwinsville, New York, just a little north of Syracuse. There is so much work, they have split their responsibilities – Brian does most of the administrative work – the regulatory records for Gap food safety certification, sustainability audits, and salesman to food retailers, planning for next season. Brother Mark handles the HR and equipment management and repair. A third brother, and niece and nephew are also all part of the operation.
They farm 500 acres, and devote 300 of that to vegetables and berries. The menu of produce is impressive: they grow strawberries, English and sugar peas, yellow, green and gold zucchini, two types of cabbage, cucumber, three types of tomatoes, 4 types of peppers, eggplant, 5 types of winter squash, gourds and pumpkins, and rotate all of their fields with cover crops like clover and rye. The rotation of those crops helps keep the soil healthy – it adds nutrients, while it is growing and when it is all plowed back in to the soil, and keeps topsoil in place. The Reeves also minimize tilling soil as much as possible, again to protect the soil and keep it in place.
With the nights cooling off, they were picking the last of their tomatoes – the cooler summer has pushed harvest a little later than usual, but means that tomatoes have been more available past the end of the typical season, which I have to say, makes me pretty happy. Pumpkins are also perfect for picking now – and they really looked beautiful in the field. The Reeves have been working with Price Chopper since 1990 – starting with delivering to one local store. They feel Price Chopper is a good partner because we understand the value of local produce, and we make their produce look great in our store displays, following our own best in fresh philosophy. Reeves Farm is also active throughout the season with the Food Bank of Central New York, based in Syracuse.
Like all successful farmers, Brian applies a lot of science to making sure they have the best produce available. Each year, they evaluate and trial new seeds and varieties of produce. They base their choices on taste, yield, size, appearance and disease resistance. Some varieties are tried and true, like the Jewel strawberries that Brian loves to make shortcake with (see his video/recipe here). Brian is really encouraged by how interested people are in wanting to know how and where food is grown, and hopes that interest lasts in our sound bite world.
Though they are almost done harvesting for the year, they are also planning for next year. The cover crops they grow now are planned to help the field be super healthy for the crops that will be rotated to them next year. The winter will bring a little vacation time away, and the Syracuse University basketball season, and more planning. Brian’s favorite part of farming is farming in the spring – being outdoors, tilling soil and planting, getting their plants off to a good start and waiting for those first strawberries. We will be waiting for them too!