In 1798 Peter Fraleigh purchased land that, in 1812, came to be known as Rose Hill Farm. For six generations the Fraleigh's were the occupants and keepers of the farm. Of New York State's BiCentennial Family Farms, Rose Hill Farm was esteemed to be the only fruit orchard by The New York State Agricultural Society in 2001.
David Fraleigh (Dave) is the sixth generation of Fraleigh's to be working and preserving the land before it was sold. He grew up there working alongside his father who ran it, and in 1979 took over just as his father had in 1944 when his grandfather died. Dave Fraleigh and Karen Fraleigh recently moved to North Carolina and sold Rose Hill Farm to Holly and Bruce Brittain in November of 2015, a little over a year ago.
We talked to Dave hoping he would be able to tell us more about this historic treasure of the Hudson Valley. Lucky for us, Dave loves telling stories and joined us on Facetime from North Carolina and shared a part of his life with us. While eating lunch and letting his dogs out to roam around the property, Dave set up a tripod and told us stories of his adventures trying to make cider, taking over the farm, and growing with the farm.
The Rose Hill Farm is a part of history and has seen a lot of changes come with the seasons of its life. It’s housed the Fraleigh family, apples, sheep, chickens, pumpkins, etc. There was a time when the farm had cows which they would breed to sell to dairy farmers in order to replace their cows as needed.
With new generations came new practices and other changes along the farm. When Dave took over he decided there would be no more sheep, just as he’d told his father when he went to Cornell, “It’s me or the sheep!” He kept the chickens. He also made changes to the irrigation system, pest control, etc.
The changes in the farm came with new generations and changes in the wholesale market, the farm changed as it had to in order to survive the climate it exists in. Once a wholesale-oriented apple orchard, the Rose Hill Farm became a “pick-your-own” farm focused on the family experience in 1995, partially due to the changes within the wholesale market.
Dave wasn’t always open to the idea of changing his farming practices, a part of him felt forced to change the way he ran things. He felt it an invasion of his privacy when his farm was open for anyone to come and take from it. But, that changed with the financial changes of the time and the demand of his customers, “It’s all supply and demand,” stated Dave. So, Dave and Karen planted pumpkins, peaches, tart cherries, apricots, nectarines, blueberries, and raspberries. At some point they began to participate in the H-2A program which allows farmers to get temporary seasonal extra help on the farm. The program is still active and used in the Hudson Valley.
The farm is between Route 9 and 199 so not always obvious to the passerby. Dave tells a story of a man who walked in and said he barely saw the sign for the farm, to which Dave replied, “It got you here, didn’t it?” Not everything about the farm changed.
Dave’s kids didn’t want to take over the farm; they had other interests. So Dave decided to pass the farm onto others who would maintain the property as farm land. In addition, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust brought the development rights of the farm from the Fraleigh's in 1998. Its objective is to protect the farmlands around Hudson and preserve the beauty of the area that this farm exists in. Rose Hill Farm will continue to exist for a long time and the legacy of the Fraleigh's with it.
Since moving to North Carolina Dave notes that there isn’t much farming he can do anymore but says the people are nicer. When asked about the apples, he replied, “Terrible Apples.”