Tidy Thyme Local Business Spotlight: Indian Ladder Farms
Our new series, Tidy Thyme Local Business Spotlight, is a way for us to highlight some of the great local businesses around us! We are such fans of the unique offerings and economic engines that local businesses bring to their communities. It’s such a great way to learn more about the places we already knew were special to our hearts.
We're thrilled that our first installment of Tidy Thyme Local Business Spotlight features Laurie Ten Eyck, Vice-President of Indian Ladder Farms in Voorheesville, New York. If you’ve never been, Indian Ladder Farms is a Shangri-La of fall fun, with great apples (pick-your-own in season), an amazing location, a café, farm animals to visit, fresh baked cider donuts and a great farm market – with, as we discovered, some new treats for us adults this year. Read on to find out more!
TT: How long has your family been involved with Indian Ladder Farms?
LT: Well, my great-grandfather started the farm in 1916, so that was 100 years ago. It was basically a dairy farm, and he had some orchard – he also worked as a congressman and was a state Commissioner of Agriculture, so it was more of a gentleman’s farm. Then, he passed it down to his son, my grandfather, and at that time the dairy barn caught fire and burned so they converted to beef cattle and started expanding the orchards. Once the orchards got into full production, they phased out the beef cattle and were primarily selling apples and pears wholesale. My father started the retail business when he was young, selling apples right out front, and then during his watch is when it has really grown to what it is now.
TT: How awesome. About what year was it when the apple production became the full focus?
LT: I’m not sure exactly, but I think it was probably in the 1950s.
TT: What makes Indian Ladder Farms a special place in this community?
LT: One of the things, first of all, is our location, because we are close to the City of Albany, but we’re also right under the Helderberg Escarpment, and John Boyd Thatcher State Park. So a lot of people will come out this way for their outdoor recreation. The park is a mainstay for people, and then, so is the farm. I think one thing about that is that because we’ve been here for so long, people have come when they were kids, then they bring their kids, and then their grandkids, and it’s generational; it’s become a family tradition.
TT: It is a nostalgic thing to do when you’re upstate. What do you appreciate about local businesses?
LT: Local business, especially local business that sells food, is great because the people who live in the area have a local resource where they can buy their food. I think that in general, local businesses spread money locally, and that supports the local economy. I think it’s really important to have strong local economies so we’re not all reliant on global economies that are completely outside our control. We buy our merchandise and products from a lot of other farmers, so the money that people have come and spent here, we then spend on products from other farmers and at local equipment dealerships and repair companies. A lot of our money recirculates in the community.
We employ a lot of local people; we have about ten people who are part of our main crew year round, and then we go up to about 100 people in the fall. We employ a lot of high school students - for many people we are their first job, so we really teach people how to work, how to have a job, and we rely on high school students enormously! We do over fifty percent of our business for the year in eight weeks, about half of that being on four weekends. So we need to have a lot of people come in here and bag baked goods and donuts, and run the cash registers and stock the shelves, and work the Pick-your-own; the high schoolers are a mainstay of our workforce.
TT: And what do you wish people knew about shopping local?
LT: Like what I was saying, people need to understand that when they’re shopping local, they’re not just getting something conveniently because it’s close to home, they’re supporting a local economy that can exist outside of or in spite of major economic problems that are happening on the global stage.
TT: What are your best memories about your time at Indian Ladder?
LT: Some of my good memories are of being a kid – really, all this was not like it is today. We did sell apples on the front porch in the fall, but there weren’t a lot of customers around most of the time, just the people who worked on the farm - a lot of them lived here, so particularly when I was a kid, we had these houses over here and seven families lived there. So me and my brother and sister, my cousins, and all those kids that lived here would ride our bikes around like crazy, and just be absolutely everywhere – in the packing house, in the store, climbing around in the bins and playing hide and seek, going out in the fields. It was obviously before cellphones, this was in the late 60s, early 70s. It’s almost become cliché now for people of my age and older, saying we would leave the house in the morning, and we would come back at night and our parents would never question where we were or be at all concerned, and that’s the way it was.
TT: That’s beautiful. And what do you look forward to in the coming years with Indian Ladder? Is there any new development you look forward to taking part in?
LT: One of the things about the farm that’s important to understand is that in 2003 we placed a conservation easement on the farm, which basically means that the land is permanently protected for agriculture, and no one can ever build buildings on this land for non-agricultural use. So, it’s not that this is something that I’m looking forward to, but something that I anticipate is that a lot of the area around us is going to become completely developed, and we’re going to be an island of agricultural land.
I don’t really look forward to that, because I don’t want to see this land developed - as a matter of fact we’re working closely with our land conservancy, which is the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, to try to protect a lot of the land that lies between this farm and Thatcher Park so that we can create a really large block of conserved land, and that’s a goal we’re working towards. I’m hoping it’s something that we can achieve, so that not only do we have this farm conserved and the park conserved, but that we have an area in between and around us so we can create a refuge from development where people can come.
TT: That’s amazing. That’s it for our questions, is there anything else you’d like to share about the season, or that you’d like to bring to folks’ attention?
LT: The big thing this year is that we’ve opened up a second business here, called Indian Ladder Farmstead Cidery and Brewery, so we are now making our own beer and hard cider. A few years ago, my husband and I started to grow hops and malting barley, and then decided to make beer, and it was natural to take the cider we’re already making and make hard cider here. So this is our first fall season with that business open, and our tasting room is open, and our biergarten. So we’re all excited and a little nervous to have this new thing, and we’re going to be interested to see how it all works out.
TT: Very exciting! So are you serving at this point?
LT: Yes, we have the tasting room on the porch and the biergarten down below on the basement level. So the tasting room is open Wednesday through Friday, 4 to 9, then 12 to 9 on Saturday and 12 to 7 on Sunday and holiday Mondays like Columbus Day. We had our soft opening May 1st and our grand opening July 17th, and this will be our first fall season.
Thank you so much, Laurie, for taking the time to speak with us about Indian Ladder Farms and all the great things happening there. All of us at Tidy Thyme are always SO excited to hear about people who are working to conserve farmland and natural spaces. We also can’t wait until we can have a taste of their new cidery venture…
Thanks for reading, greenies, we hope we’ve whet your appetite for a trip over to Indian Ladder – while pick-your-own season is over, I hear they are still baking up those cider donuts… and stay tuned for the next Tidy Thyme Local Business Spotlight!
All the best!
the Tidy Thyme Crew