The Crawford Family at Lyndaker Farm: Left to Right: Zachery, Cate, Catherine, Naomi, and Jason. Photo by Carol Vogel
By Carol Vogel
Located on Route 29A in Salisbury, NY, Lyndaker Farms specializes in something unique for the area: Peonies. Cate Crawford, her husband Jason, and their three children cultivate beautiful peonies and other perennials on a farm named for her grandfather.
About Lyndaker Farms
Growing up on a Mennonite farm in upstate New York, Cate had farming in her blood. “I was gardening from age 2!” Cate laughs. After graduation, she moved to the city and worked on Wall Street as a Technology Risk Manager for many years. Her husband, Jason, was raised in Guyana and is from a farming family. He was employed as a software engineer in New York City, where they met.
As time passed, gardening became more important to Cate, and she started a garden at their home in Brooklyn. Deciding they needed more space, they moved to Salisbury.
While Cate’s focus is the peony and cut flower farm, Jason teaches Technology at West Canada Valley. He’s also an instructor of computer engineering and leads the FHA chapter. “My parents were both teachers,” Jason explains. Jason loves that he is home when the kids get off the bus and can work on the family farm. They raise their own vegetables and meat for their family. Jason smiles, “The flowers are for the people.”
They have three children, Catherine, Zachery, and Naomi, who help around the approximately 38-acre farm. Two acres of the farm are dedicated to peonies and cut flowers and provide a healthy habitat for pollinators.
Peonies have existed since 1000 BC in the gardens of China and eventually reached Japan, a major producer of peony plants today. Peony roots and seeds were prized in the East for their medicinal properties, aiding in treating asthma headaches and even helping relieve childbirth pain.
Today, there are about 40 species of peony originating from Asia, Europe, and North America. The American Peony Society recognizes the standard six forms – Single, Japanese, Anemone, Semi-double, Bomb, and Full Double. There are multiple colors and variations among the varieties.
Cultivating peonies takes time and patience – it takes 2-3 years to propagate them. Cate also mentioned that weeding is a full-time job. “It feels like a losing battle when it comes to weeds, but we have a plan. While weeding the first few years will be important – as plants grow and mature – the weeds won’t win, and weeding will be sporadic and hopefully down to once a year.”
Lyndaker Farms carries all four types of peonies: herbaceous, herbaceous hybrid, tree peonies, and Itoh’s. “We have hundreds in each category. In some categories, we probably have 1000+. Our total production area is currently over 2 acres” with more space waiting to be planted this fall.
They also have a large amount of Tree Peony seedlings that are being trialed. “These are peonies not yet registered or introduced to the market. We are trialing them to see which are special enough to warrant market introduction. We’ve already introduced four and have others we’re hoping to propagate this year and introduce in 2024 or 2025.”
Cate and Jason are incredibly knowledgeable and eager to share and teach about gardening and all the fantastic plants they offer. Their website includes excellent resources on peony care and has a blog with informative posts to help you create your gorgeous gardens. Their annual catalog comes out in July and is available on their website.
The American Peony Society visited Lyndaker Farms this spring for a tour. Although the weather was rainy and not cooperative, Cate said it was exciting to have a busload of folks from all over the world to see their farm and discuss everything peony!
Cate adds, “In addition to the peonies, we have at least 3000 perennials, but I am likely underestimating. We planted many more this spring than anticipated, but it may be closer to 5,000 by the time the season ends. Most of these perennials are in their first year of growth and are not anticipated to be at peak production until 2025.”
While the farm sells to collectors and the public, Cate explains, “Our target market is florists and designers. We do not operate a roadside stand, but we do get a fair amount of DIY event requests. In these cases, folks just buy buckets of blooms from us and do the design work themselves. We don’t actively market this service – it’s just something that’s developed organically as people have learned about our farm.”
Currently, the farm is almost exclusively perennials or biennials. Since they are limited in production while they cultivate, they are currently working with two local florists, Creative Designs by Tiffany in Dolgeville and Pheobe’s Floristry in Ilion. “Both are fantastic to work with, are very innovative in their designs, and provide an outstanding service to their clients,” Cate says.
She is excited to grow in the near future. “We’re also in conversation with a handful of other local and regional designers/florists, but – until our production ramps up next year and into 2025 – we simply don’t have enough product to establish working relationships. I will say, though – most upstate NY florists appear to WANT local products. They seem to immediately get that the local product quality has the potential to exceed product that’s had to travel much longer distances.”
The Healing Power of Nature
Like many, Cate has struggled with health conditions but says, “I farm not despite – but because of – disability.” Cate’s journey sounds familiar, “I know I’m not the only one (particularly the only woman) who’s been seriously ill and repeatedly dismissed.” After decades of searching for answers regarding health issues that left medical experts at a loss, she was diagnosed with four autoimmune diseases and two neurological conditions.
“All are now either in remission or very well managed.” Cate explains, “The farm has been one of the core pillars underpinning my healing. And I’ve also become aware of how many chronically ill folks are finding work with nature helps mend what they thought was irreversibly broken.”
“Out of my experience, I’ve started a substack, “The Chronic Gardener” (catecrawford.substack.com). It’s kind of like a Farm/Garden Journal, but specifically from the perspective of someone doing that work while living with real, daily limitations. My goal is that others living with chronic illness (or other enduring hardship) may see themselves in the stories we share.”
Family, Flowers, and the Future
Cate and Jason’s passion for peonies and the natural beauty of the Adirondack foothills is felt when you meet them. “We love the area. When we were looking for a farm, we targeted this region in part for its unique, almost unreal beauty.” Cate explains. “But we’ve come to love it for so many reasons. We feel so at home in our children’s school district – Dolgeville Central School. Jason teaches at West Canada, loves his students, and believes in/strongly supports the mission of that school as well. Not to mention the friends we’ve made and the wonderful neighbors we have here in Salisbury.”
“We also feel this area has huge potential. It’s surely one of the most beautiful parts of NY state, with so many great small businesses and outdoor activities at one’s fingertips. We’d not be surprised if the area continues to increase in popularity in the coming years, much like what we’ve all witnessed in the Hudson Valley. Quality of life here is fantastic!”
Visit their website, www.lyndakerfarms.com, to read more about the farm, learn gardening tips, sign up for their mailing list, and shop their catalog. You can even schedule a walking tour of the farm!
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A Marketing professional for over 20 years, Carol Vogel is always writing. She enjoys telling stories, from crafting brand strategies and identities to creating social media campaigns, copywriting, and building websites. Carol has also designed and developed course content as an adjunct faculty member at Herkimer College.
Carol was raised in Dolgeville, N Y, the youngest of seven children. Moving away to pursue her education and career strengthened her appreciation of this beautiful area. She is excited to highlight stories from her hometown for the readers of My Little Falls.
Carol loves to entertain. Hosting game nights and outdoor movies allows her to gather people together. She loves making homemade pasta, is obsessed with great food, and when given a choice, she will always choose cake.
Carol lives in Little Falls with her husband, Andy, and their black lab, Gypsy, who likes to take walks very early in the morning.
If you have a story idea or want to reach out, you may contact Carol through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.