The Garlic Growers

Heroes,Local Heroes
August 26, 2011

In New York's Hudson Valley, farmers grow more than 70 varieties of garlic, celebrated at the annual garlic festival every year.

stalks-of-garlic-1
Mark Boughton/styling: Teresa Blackburn
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Bob Yerina’s father came home one evening about 40 years ago with 1 1/2 pounds of garlic. “My father told me to go plant it, so I did,” he said. Yerina, owner of Garlic Delite Farms in Little Falls, N.Y., has been growing the stinkin’ rose ever since.

Other old-timers tell similar stories: Frankie Palermo, a Sicilian immigrant, decided to give garlic a try on his Canandaigua, N.Y., farm because, “Everybody grows tomatoes.” In Solvay, N.Y., Ron Antonili got his start with 150-year-old seed given to him by his best friend’s mother. “How can you pass up that?”   he asks.

Yerina admits that growing garlic is labor intensive. “You plant in fall, then weed constantly. Harvest is in early summer, then garlic needs to dry.” But it has its benefits: Garlic is disease-resistant, and you can plant it fairly close together. One acre of garlic yields about 3 to 5 tons of garlic.

Robert Nogash, owner of Gillie Farms in Memphis, N.Y., is one of a new generation of garlic-growers. He operates a certified organic farm, planting buckwheat in between garlic plants to manage weeds and adding compost to keep the soil healthy.

Both Yerina and Nogash along with 50 other garlic growers sell their bulbs at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival every year. Vendors sell about 70 varieties of garlic including Spanish Roja, Italian Purple Skin and Russian Red, to name a few.

This year’s festival is scheduled for Sept. 29-30 in Saugerties, N.Y.

—By Diane Welland

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