Way back in 1908 John and Josephine Dagele began a small onion operation in the fertile black dirt of Orange Country, NY. Black dirt, or muck as it’s known locally, is some of the best soil in the country thanks to its high levels of nitrogen, sulfur and organic matter. About 12,000 years ago, a glacier moved across lower New York leaving in its wake bogs full of decaying plant matter. When Polish and German immigrants moved to the area in search of farmland, they drained the bogs and discovered the rich black dirt, which characterized the landscape today. Most farmers hope for 10% organic matter in their soils but in the black dirt region most soils have over 30% organic matter with some soils have levels as high as 90%! According to Marie Ullrich, an agricultural extension agent in Orange County, “it’s basically a giant bowl of compost.”
The Dagele family continued to farm the land, expanding their small onion farm into the 500 acre diversified vegetable operation it is today. Brothers Frank, Robert and Randy run the farm. They remain true to their grandparents’ vision, growing almost 200 acres of onions and keeping family at the heart of their operation. In addition to onions the Dagele Brothers grow a large variety of vegetables, including 200 acres of salad greens. Pretty much any vegetable that grows in the Northeast can be found growing at the Dagele Brothers’ farm. They do not take the fertile land for granted and are committed to farming it sustainably through alternative growing methods and low impact chemicals.