Farm tour gives outsiders a taste of Orange

Little known fact: Alamo health care is available to everyone


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  • Local farmer Chris Pawelski (center) with members of the NYS Assembly, Patricia Fahy (left) Shelley Mayer (right), both of Albany (Photo provided by Chris Pawelski)




  • A farm-fresh lunch was served during the tour (Photo provided by Chris Pawelski)



By Edie Johnson

— Orange County farms are a model for the region. That's the message heard by officials who came from as far away as Yonkers and the Bronx to tour local farms with NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis and local agricultural leaders.

The tour began at the Alamo Center on Pulaski Highway, a second home to many farm workers in the region. Kathy Brieger, executive director of Planetree Training Institute of Hudson River Healthcare, heads the facility. She showed folks around, describing the generous programs available to farm workers in Orange County.

Almost all of the work at The Alamo is done with donations and volunteers, she said. About 2,800 farm workers receive their services. But many people don't realize that their services are open to everyone, farm worker or not, she said. The health care program receives some federal funding and accepts payment from Medicare and Medicaid, along with private payment.

Goshen town officials and several county legislators also got a peek into the Alamo's varied services, from free meals six days a week; classes, including second-language lessons; a lending library for children; a homework help group; sewing lessons; and dental care. There are clubs for the youngsters.

The young people were clearly proud of their second home. One young man showed how similar the recently renovated building resembles the actual Alamo in Texas.

The staff was especially proud of its sewing project: making comfortable, waterproof kneepads for workers in the fields. They are fastened with Velcro fasteners and lined with denim to keep them from getting slippery. They're a hit! Now the group has decided to attach reflective strips to the kneepads to keep workers safe while walking home. These ingenuous items may even reap a small profit. And the group didn't stop with kneepads. They also made lightweight shoulder bags, protective eyeware, and other small essentials.

Next stop was the farm tour. Those participating enjoyed a rest with farm fresh foods provided by Cherl Rogowski of Rogowski Farms_and Sharon Soons of Soons Orchards. Farm stops along the way included J&A (Jeff and Adina Bialas), who specialize in a wide variety of vegetable products; ABCD School in Florida; John Glebocki Farms; and Minkus Family Farms.

Chris Pawelski, a fifth-generation onion farmer, helped lead the tours and provided photos of the activities that continued throughout the afternoon. Pawelski is also executive director of Farm Roots, an organization dedicated to specialty farms and migrant farm workers.

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