Mead Orchard has been part of the Hudson Valley for three generations now. The Mead family has been involved in farming since G. Gordon Mead, who previously worked at Wall Street, drove down in his beloved Ford Model T from upstate New York and bought the land in 1916. He transformed the farm into an exclusively supplier of fresh produce to wholesale markets, specializing in apples. He also changed the name of the farm from "White Clay Creek Orchards" (White Clay Creek runs through the property). It is now mostly a local retailer of fresh produce but also sells some of its produce to the wholesale market.
Despite some of the rocky weather has over the past couple of years apples are still the farm's most consistent and resilient crop. Since Chuck Mead took over from his father Sidney Mead in the 80s he has grown at least 50 different varieties of apples. Chuck has overseen the transition of Mead Orchards from the wholesale market to more local retail market due to the recent rise in the popularity of local farmer's markets such as Pleasantville Farmer's Market. It is also a beloved pick-your-own fruit destination.
The architecture of the farm is as old as the farm itself. The strikingly huge red banked barn has been there even before Chuck's grandfather bought the property. It has the initials from a member of the Coon family from 1908 on the wall of the second floor of the barn . It still has some of the original wood that the barn was built from. The barn was built in such a way that tractors can be driven to its third floor. Chuck's mother's house, just few feet away from the barn, still has some of the original roofing which by now is more than 100 years old. Just across from Chuck's mother's house is the Cider Room, it houses the huge cider making machine which presses deliciously sweet cider and apple cider vinegar. Unfortunately they are currently restricted to only his farm stand.
We were really interested in knowing how farming technology has changed over the years and both Dave Farleigh, who was coincidentally Chuck's roommate when they both studied at Cornell, and Doug Taylor raved about the technical advancement of Mead Orchards. According to Chuck the farm has actually gone through very little change in technology change since he took over from his father. Since then pesticides have become more environmentally friendly and irrigation techniques have improved. Apple trees have shrunk in size to increase the yield per acre. Farming is still grueling work and not many people are up to it. Chuck has guest workers living at the farm and he regards them not only an integral part of the farm but as a part of his family as well. He sold the developmental rights of the farm to Scenic Hudson Valley in 2001 to ensure that his property is not used for anything else but for farming purposes. This will preserve the rich local farming traditions of this historic property for generations to come.