by Michael Durante, Jr
Remembering long days on her grandparents’ farm in Endicott, NY, Sarah Friedman recalls, “Those were probably the best memories of my childhood.” Her grandmother picked fresh fruit, cooked and molded it into leathers, preserving the flavors of every season.
When Friedman and her husband, three-time Grammy winning R&B artist Aaron Neville, purchased a former horse farm on Strawberry Hill Road in 2015, she still had the taste of those fruit leathers on her tongue. Friedman has spent more than a year renovating the old property, ramping up her operation, and deciding which sorts of plants she enjoys growing most. She found that berries – especially strawberries, and not just because of the farm’s address – and orchard fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and apricots best suit her goals as a grower, and she plans to preserve this sweet produce as fruit leathers and other value-added farm products, just like her grandmother.
Farming is Sarah Friedman’s second career. For decades she worked in the New York media industry as a photographer. As she and Neville tried to cool down their busy, work-driven lives, Friedman says, “I lost a sense of myself.” Living in the big city without a high functioning career felt like biking on a highway; the couple and their environment ran at different speeds. She began gardening on her building’s terrace – not the kind of manicured Manhattan garden one might imagine, but a food forest. Friends at New York’s famed Union Square farmers’ market convinced her that farming could be a viable second career, and Friedman convinced Neville that they could live happily in the country. After looking at some farmhouses that were a bit too 19th century for their taste, they found a home in Pawling.
Friedman’s farming philosophy is succinct: “I farm the way I want to eat. I’m not going to sell anything I wouldn’t gobble up myself.” At Freville Farm (the name combines the couple’s last names), besides the berries and orchard fruit, they produce eggs from 150 pastured chickens fed organic, soy-free feed; vegetables for personal use, with any excess donated to local food service charities; and heirloom seedlings for a spring plant sale.
This summer Friedman plans to begin producing and retailing a line of Freville Farm products, such as fruit leathers, syrups, and dehydrated fruit, all with produce from the farm. To find out where you can purchase these local farm products, visit www.frevillefarm.com, or follow the Freville Farm Facebook page.
Sarah Friedman, two years a farmer and already sounding like a lifer, is hard at work rebuilding a forgotten property into a viably sustainable agriculture business. She walks the talk. “This is one of the hardest jobs on the planet,” she says, “but I can’t remember what life was like before it.”
In addition to growing according to permaculture and organic principles, Freville Farm uses a solar system to electrify the property and employs local youth with fair wages to help Friedman do all the work. Ultimately, she wants Freville Farm to be the kind of place where neighbors can call ahead to order a tray of black Brandywine tomato starts or shishito pepper seedlings for their gardens, then grab a dozen eggs and a few delicious farm-produced gifts when they stop by to pick them up. Freville Farm is well on pace to become a Pawling landmark for years to come.