Two hundred years is an awful long time, but that’s how long Bellvale Farms has been in existence. The farm is located in the hamlet of Bellvale, in the Town of Warwick. “Actually, it didn’t even have a name at the beginning,” says Al Buckbee, sitting in the kitchen with Judy, his wife of 55 years. “But it’s been in our family all that time.” A plaque outside dates the place to 1819.
“This was my father’s, and we bought it from him in 1971,” Al says. “We raised our family here.”That family includes son Skip, a former Orange County Legislator, who runs the farm, and daughter Amy, who operates the well-known Bellvale Farms Creamery with her husband, Tim Noteboom.
“I always wanted be a farmer and assumed I would be,” says Al. “But right out of college, I took a job on Wall Street. At first I worked there Monday to Friday and then was a farmer on weekends.”
“In other words, he worked all the time,” Judy says.
“That’s not true,” Al says, laughing. “For a few years I played golf on Tuesday nights.”
In 1995 Al retired and became a full-time farmer. Today, Bellvale Farms is one of the last working dairy farms in Orange County, with 460 acres of land and more than 150 dairy cows.
The cows are milked at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and a truck pulls up once every two days to take the product to be pasteurized and homogenized. Some of the milk is sold, while some goes back to the creamery to be made into ice cream. Semi-automatic milking equipment speeds the process.
“Before machines, we needed six people a day,” Al says. “Now, one person can operate six units.”
Film directors and producers have also discovered the farm’s gorgeous location, with Bearfort Ridge close by and Sugar Loaf Mountain off in the distance. The “Sneaky Pete” and “An American Saga” TV series have shot there, and lots of TV commercials have been made at Bellvale Farms.
“Too many to count,” says Judy. “My favorite was the Fruit of the Loom characters running around dressed up like fruit. Apple asked us to plant a cornfield, and they will be up here in October.”
Al grew up there, playing and exploring the land, originally part of the Wisner Farm.
“I wasn’t the first baby born at St. Anthony’s Hospital, but one of the first,” he says. “I hadn’t been back to any hospital until 2016 when I had two knee surgeries. I told the doc I was back for repairs,” he adds.
“And I was born in Kingman, Kansas,” Judy says, proudly. “I’m the daughter of a wheat farmer.”
They met and fell in love at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Al graduated in 1963 and Judy in 1965. They found time to get married at Warwick Reformed Church in 1964.
“That was a long time ago,” Judy says.
“Our reception was at the Iron Forge Inn,” Al says. “When we had our anniversary party there 50 years later, there was a much bigger crowd than our original crowd.”
With the 200th anniversary of the farm approaching, the couple has plans.
“We’re having a party on July 14 and inviting everyone who helps keep this farm running,” Judy says. “Roofers, plumbers, electricians, hay farmers, grain farmers. It’s invitation only because we want to keep it small.”
“All these people are integral to running a farm,” Judy says. “And we want to thank them all.”
John DeSanto is a freelance photojournalist. Find more of his 845LIFE stories, photos and videos at recordonline.com. Reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org