Nov 1, 2020
Klein’s Kill Fruit Farm in Germantown is fast approaching a big anniversary: 100 years in business!
Klein’s Kill Fruit Farm in Germantown is fast approaching a big anniversary: 100 years in business! Founded shortly after Antonio and Jesse Bartolotta married in 1921 the farm is in its third generation of family stewardship under Russell Bartolotta Jr.
Even with the farm’s centennial approaching, the Bartolottas are lively as ever. In fact the Columbia County farm is about to undertake the construction of massive new fruit storage and processing facility, the largest single project in the operation’s storied history. Klein’s Kill began as a 225-acre farm specializing in half a dozen varieties of apples.
Klein's Kill now grows over 25 varieties of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries on 600 acres. There are 18 varieties of apples alone. Its national client base extends to 30 states. The farm is Eco Apple certified for its environmentally responsible growing practices. In response to increased demand, over the past decade the farm has planted 140,000 fruit trees, including 25,000 in 2019 alone. To accommodate the incoming production volume as these new trees are beginning to bear fruit, the farm is building and equipping an 18,750 square foot building.
This new facility will be used for storing and packing apples and other fruit and include an atmosphere controlled refrigerated storage cooler rated for 40,000 bushels. Extra storage will also be made available to other growers in the Hudson Valley. The growth of the business will also result in the hiring of ten new employees.
HVADC was happy to be able to assist the Bartolottas with their business plan for the expansion. Through the HVADC Incubator Without Walls Program Klein’s Kill worked with business advisor Brian Zweig and on the strength of the farm’s plan they developed, were awarded a NYS Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grant of $134,000.
“We were awarded the grant last December and were working on the plans when COVID hit,” said the Russell Bartolotta Jr. “After pausing everything we had to get all new construction bids. But now we are moving forward. Todd Erling [HVADC Executive Director] was integral in heading me in the right direction.”
“We are excited that Klein’s Kill was able to secure grant funding to increase their packing and shipping infrastructure and capabilities through a traditional economic development program,” said Erling. “Through steadfast business operations and planning Russell earned every penny of the CFA grant but it is also a meaningful step forward for all farms looking to access economic development capital that has too often excluded agriculture and overlooked farms’ vast contribution to the local economy.”
Though these are complicated times and there is a lot of uncertainty, Bartolotta remains optimistic about the farm’s future and the reinvigorated relationship local consumers are having with area farms as a result of the pandemic.
“We’re bullish,” Bartolotta said. “The pandemic did tell us that people do want reliable fresh local produce. The support our customers have given us is fantastic. Everyone thought pick-your own was going to be off this year but it was great. People wanted to get outside and do something in nature that was distanced and safe.”
The time, he continued, is right for the expansion and sets the wheels in motion at Klein’s Kill for another 100 years of successful fruit farming.
For more information about the Incubator Without Walls program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls