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Love Apple Farm rises from the ashes

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Reprinted with permission from the Times Union

GHENT – Under a blazing sun, workers used a small John Deere tractor to pull crates of large Ginger Gold apples, loading them into small portable coolers.

Farther up the dusty driveway, Amy Gregg sold the apples, Red Haven and Sugar White peaches and other items in the shade of a small circus-like tent that served as a makeshift produce stand.

Love Apple Farm is slowly returning from the ashes.

On a cold evening in November 2013, former farm manager Donald Golden was home playing the piano when he got a call saying smoke was coming from his storage barn and farm stand at the Route 9H location in Columbia County.

He did not think it looked too bad when he arrived, but that quickly changed.

“I got here and it looked like about as much smoke as we would get if we burned a pie,” Golden said the next morning as he stared at a fire-gutted produce stand and refrigerated storage facility. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of destroyed apples sat in melted plastic crates among the cinders, the farm’s 2013 crop.

On a recent warmer day, manager Keith Bogdanovich sat in the shade of the tent as a construction crew worked on the metal framework of a sturdy structure to replace the destroyed 44-year-old building. “We are pushing for a soft opening, hopefully later this year, and a ribbon-cutting maybe in the spring,” Bogdanovich said.

Since the fire, the farm has not had a kitchen to make cider doughnuts and pies, popular around the fall and winter holidays. Without a large refrigerated storage barn, the business has also had to curtail its vegetable crops.

“This time of year you really need refrigeration to sell vegetables properly,” Bogdanovich said. “Apples keep and peaches and tomatoes are sold just after they’re picked.”

With a new and modern produce store in the construction plans, the farm will add a cafe and a bakery to make it an attractive stop in the colder months.

But for nearly two summers, Bogdanovich has been frustrated that the business is not yet in full swing.

“We have a lot of work yet to do and I’m pushing to get the place going and expand our offerings,” Bogdanovich said.

The 80-acre farm has sprawling fields and orchards of several varieties of apples, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, melons and tomatoes. They also have a small petting zoo.

The business, which opened in 1969, is a popular destination for New York City day-trippers with their kids. Love Apple sells produce to Zabar’s high-end specialty shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

According to a press release from the farm, Bogdanovich took over operations at Love Apple Farm almost a year ago. In that time he and farm owner, Francis Greenburger, have put together a two-phase rebuilding plan. Phase one of the plan includes building a 9000-square-foot farm stand currently under construction.

Until four years ago, the stand and farm for 40 years was run by Rande, a model, and Merlin “Chris” Loken, a writer.

Currently the farm’s open-air stand and U-Pick fruit is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more about the farm and store at http://loveapplefarm.com/.

To contact reporter Bob Gardineir email bgardinier@timesunion.com.

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