Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Pennings Farm which sits on 100 acres of pristine farmland in the historic Hudson Valley town of Warwick, NY, is so much more than just a farm market. You could visit every day of the week and experience something different and wonderful. There’s a Farm-to-Table Cafe, a Pub, a Beer Garden, an Ice Cream Stand, a Garden Center and a Cidery Tap Room.
The grill menu is known to change with the seasons to include limited specialty dishes like Curried Cauliflower Croquette, Truffle Mac & Cheese and Grilled Eggplant Panini. I was treated to their popular Peach & Arugula Salad. The peaches were freshly picked from their orchard, and the juice ran down my fork. I nabbed a few fresh cut fries which our table grudgingly shared, and I couldn’t get enough.
For over 30 years, Steve and Jill Pennings have grown produce including apples, apricots, eggplant, nectarines, peaches, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes and zucchini. Their events calendar is staggering and includes Car Shows, Open Mic, Poetry Slams, Ladies Night BOGO, Apple Picking, Petting Zoo, Dances in the Beer Garden, Trivia Nights, Networking Lecture Series, Wreath Workshops, and Live Music from rap to blues to rock!
WHAT A FARM MARKET!!!
However, it’s the Pennings’ huge hearts that sets this farm market apart from any other I have visited. The charities they support and events they host rivals the Gates Foundation! During my interview, I had difficulty writing quickly enough to keep up with the plethora of events they described. Pennings was part of a group of generous local Orange County farms to send a tractor trailer load of apples and other fresh produce to Florida after hurricane Irma. Together, the Cornell Cooperative and the Farm support a Gleaning Program to pick excess apples at the end of the season. This summer the Farm donated their beer garden venue to the ShopRite of Chester Plaza’s annual Cornhole Tournament to raise money for veterans. The Cidery also hosts events where they donate a portion of their proceeds to organizations including the Warwick First Responders and the Rashad Jennings Foundation benefitting youth reading and sports programs.
There are also several weekly events that benefit local charities. All you motor heads out there will love the weekly Cruise-in Car Show, a special presentation of classic cars, trucks and motorcycles offering a closeup look at some antique and souped up rides all parked on the lawn at Pennings. The Richard Jacob Rudy Memorial Fund and Pennings Farm Market present the weekly Cruise-In Car Show from May through September. Proceeds and donations from every Thursday’s car show are graciously given to local children and families in need. The fund also presents scholarships on an annual basis to students graduating from the Automotive program at Orange-Ulster BOCES CTEC.
Holiday Events for Local Charities
For over 25 years Pennings and the local Lions Club have hosted an Easter Egg Hunt. The Farm donates their field and half of the candy. The staff fills 3,000 plastic eggs with jelly beans and over 500 kids search the fields for the goodies. This year the event had a Facebook reach of more than 50,000 views. During the Thanksgiving season, bags of apples are donated to the Ecumenical Society of Warwick, and soups are also donated when needed. In December, the Farm sells Christmas trees and supports the St. Stephen-St. Edward School’s "Trucks N Trees" by donating $10 for every tree sold. The Cidery is also open and donates a portion of their proceeds. “Since we host so many charity events, they must blend in with our daily activities and our work flow at the Farm,” said Pennings.
The Best Place to Work
Not only does Pennings give back to their community, but they give their support and love to all of their staff. The Pennings believe in partnering with their employees on business ventures. Heather Kurosz, an Executive Chef at Pennings, is also the owner of Sweet Things Wild Thyme Honey, a local beekeeping and honey business. Heather’s honey is sold at the Pennings Farm Market and also used in their cider. “We are training kids to work again. Most of the kitchen staff is of high school and college age. We average 50 kids a year coming and going, and they work as servers, dishwashers and bussers,” said Steve. There’s a sign near the kitchen proclaiming:
HIRE TEENAGERS WHILE THEY STILL KNOW EVERYTHING.
Mike Beltrone started scooping ice cream at the Farm Market when he was 15 years old. Eight years later, he is in a Hospitality Masters program at Ramapo and about to leave for a semester in Milan. AJ Ajello also started out scooping ice cream. Today, he is a junior at Johnson & Wales University, but he continues to work summers and holidays at the Farm Market. He dreams of owning his own restaurant one day. “I learned a good work ethic at Pennings, and I also learned how to work well with others,” said Ajello.
“Employees never totally leave us. They become our farm family, and they always come back,” said Chef Kurosz. “Many come back to play on our kickball team or our Growlers co-ed hockey team. Our mission is FARM FOR LIFE.”
At the end of every shift there’s time for Shifty O’Clock when the staff enjoys a free beverage and brainstorming time with the other employees. “There have been lots of creative ideas born at Shifty O’Clock,” said Pennings.