Hudson Valley Fresh is a dairy farmer partnership located in the Hudson Valley. This group of farmers are “dedicated to preserving the agricultural heritage of the Hudson River Valley and promoting it as one of the premier food regions of the United States.”
Dr. Sam Simon knows (and loves) cows. His father Kurt was a cattle dealer and Sam learned long ago how to spot a quality cow. He grew up on a 200 acre dairy farm in Middletown, New York, and upon his father’s death in 1969, kept the family farm going while in medical school, later settling in Poughkeepsie to practice medicine as an orthopedic surgeon. Retiring 22 years later, Sam went back to his love of dairy farming. Based on a handshake, he purchased the 150 acre Plankenhorn Farm in Pleasant Valley in 1995 from his patient, Lester Plankenhorn, the only surviving member of the family, whose father had bought the farm in 1922 after crossing the Hudson River via the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge in a cattle car to keep the cows calm. The farm name remains Plankenhorn out of respect for the previous owners. “Great farmers, outstanding cow people,” says Sam.
Sam sold Plankenhorn’s dairy cows in October 2011 and now raises and breeds Holstein heifers as replacement animals for other dairy farms. He also continues to raise hay and corn to feed their heifers as well. Sam remains involved in the daily operations of Hudson Valley Fresh and stays in this business not only because he loves cows but because, as he says, “someone needs to be an advocate for these family dairy farmers. Many co-ops treat milk as just a commodity but we take a lot of pride in our product and deserve recognition for that. All milk is not created equal.”
It just so happens that my sister-in-law, Katie (Zoe) Ferris, is using these high quality local dairy products at Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn. She asked me to photograph some of the farms to display in the shop. For me it is a great opportunity to visit real farms, talk to real farmers, and begin a new series on family farms in the Hudson Valley.