For years, my friend Jeff Feero’s blueberry farm has been the stuff of legend. It’s a bucolic Shangri La, the Neverland of Upstate New York! I’ve been vying for an invite to Jeff’s farm since I learned about it; I usually get a kind-hearted laugh to all of my not-so-subtle hints, which has only served to increase my fascination with the place. But when I sat down to talk with him about his farm, Jeff, who is the Managing Partner at Alex Sepkus, was very down to earth about his haven away from home….and towards the end of our chat, I think I may have even scored a kinda sorta invitation:
Couture: Where is your blueberry farm?
Jeff Feero: It’s outside of Saratoga, NY in a little town called Galway, three hours from Manhattan. It’s called Blueberry Hill Solar Organic Farm, everything is organic, and it utilizes solar panels and wind power.
C: How often do you go to the farm?
JF: I go year-round, it’s livable all year.
C: So tell me about the farm…why did you buy it, what goes on there? I’m sure it’s a really fun place to visit (hint, hint).
JF: I bought the place in August of 2010, there was nothing there, just empty land. I came across it when I was looking for a piece of property to build a garage to house and work on my classic cars; that was the plan. So when I found this piece of land and learned that it had been on the market since 2007, I rushed to make an offer on it. After we closed, my realtor said to me, “What are you going to do with all of the blueberries?” I said, “What do you mean, blueberries?” It turns out what I thought were just piles and piles of brush were actually 1,400 blueberry plants in 27 rows. They hadn’t been pruned or tended to in years. I was shocked! They were interesting and beautiful, but also a lot of work.
C: So how did all of those blueberry plants get there?
JF: I asked around town and found out that the woman who last lived there planted the blueberry plants between 1962 and 1965. She was a 4th generation farmer who lived with no electricity or running water until she passed away in 2006. Around the time she was 82 or 83, they took away her driver’s license. So she took to driving her tractor to the store to go shopping. You can’t take away a farmer’s tractor!
C: So what do you do with all of those blueberries?
JF: Last year we had a huge crop of about 1,100 pounds and people pay to pick their own, plus we sold 600 gallons to local organic restaurants. Most of the year I probably eat a smoothie with blueberries every day in the warm weather and about a pound of blueberries every week. I’ve also been experimenting with making blueberry tequila….when I get the combination right it looks like a nice Cabernet and tastes like brandy. It’s fun! Tasty stuff and it’s good looking!
C: So what do you do when you’re not tending to, picking or eating blueberries?
JF: I have 7 homemade ponds with decorative fish like Koi, I’m currently working with seasonal talapia, and we’re looking into farming other kinds of fish, like trout. We have a skeet shooting range, a target range, we make our own snow and go snowshoeing and cross country skiing, we do turkey hunts. We grow way too many tomatoes, asparagus, eggplants and beets, so we’ve taken up a little space in the local farmer’s market. We also rent the space out for weddings; it lends itself to massive amounts of tents! I give tractor rides to the families who come to pick berries…it’s a really special place.
About a year ago I worked on trade with a local craftsman—I gave him an engagement ring for his now wife, and he built this really beautiful stone wall for me. It was a true labor of love and it’s gorgeous! People often stop and take pictures in front of it. When one of these people asks me, “Why did you build this wall?” I really don’t need to explain myself; just the fact that the person has stopped to take a picture and ask that question is enough!
C: So it was your collection of cars that got you there, tell me about them.
JF: I have six classic cars and I love them all. The thing about these cars is they have their own personalities and they make you feel a certain way when you’re driving them, it’s like nice clothes or a nice pair of shoes. In my 1986 Ferarri 328 GTS I feel like a badass! The 1961 Jaguar looks like a Rolls Royce, and I feel like I’m in that movie, “It Takes a Thief,” and in the 1959 Thunderbird that Stephen Webster gave me, I feel slightly Latin! But when I’m driving my bright turquoise, 1968 Chevy C10 pick up truck, everyone wants to go have ice cream with me! That’s the easiest icebreaker!
C: I wanna go have ice cream with you, Jeff!
JF: Well maybe sometime this summer, work it out with your sister to bring the nieces and nephew up and pick some blueberries!
C: Sounds like an invite to me!