K.S. Datthyn Farm

2016 All Rights Reserved © Arleen Thaler Photography

K.S. Datthyn Farm’s Tradition of Muck FArming

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Images courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farms

For over 90 years the Muck land, four miles south of the village of Sodus has flourished under the supervision of a Datthyn It started when Jake Datthyn came to the U.S. from Holland’s province of Zeeland in 1921. Back then celery, onions, and potatoes were the primary crops.

In 1965 Ken Datthyn took over the muck and over time expanded the operation by acquiring 7 surrounding farms totaling over 500 acres. He grew celery, onions, potatoes and added in tart cherries and apple in 1972. Over time the onion operation became on of the most successful in NY and became the primary crop.

Raised on a dairy farm as a child, Eric Tuttle went off to Chicago to be a graphic designer. Making the decision to come back to NY after many walks with Ken Datthyn, and appreciating the hard work and ethic that went into farming, Eric and his wife Sussana (Ken Datthyn’s daughter) came back and he began his work on the farm.

In 2013 the operation expanded again with a 100 acres expansion of the fruit operation. 2

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Image courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farm

Easter marks the beginning of the onion planting, a tradition that goes back almost a 100 years for the Datthyn/Tuttle family. When most people are out hunting for eggs, millions of onions are being planed.

Farm workers sit side-by-side as the tractor-pulled transplanter runs along the muck planting the baby onion plants. The module trays are fitted to the planting machine, a contraption pulled behind the tractor. The onion plants get put on the conveyor belt and taken down to the soil by two metal disks that grab onto the leaves of the plants. Then two broad wheels firm the plants into the soil.

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Image courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farm

As the workers are planting, the two other workers fill in the gaps in the rows of onions and check the planting machines progress from behind.

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Image courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farm

Checking to make sure the plants are being placed properly in the muck field. Here you can see the fertile dark soil that is called muck. “This soft and loose soil can also cause problems for some muck farmers. When muck is dry, it blows away easily, so farmers often have to build windbreaks near their crops.” 1

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Image courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farm

Millions of onion tops are inspected by Ken Datthyn as they begin to fall over in preparation of the harvest in August. The tradition of walking the fields in between the planting and the harvest goes back to Jacob walking his son Ken and continues today as Eric takes his sons out to look at the plant’s progression.

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by Arleen Thaler

Onion tops fall over and are ready to be harvested. Muck farming has not changed much, the Datthyn family still uses the same principles that Ken learned from Jacob in the operation. Technology has changed, keeping the process the same but more efficient.

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by Arleen Thaler

A worker rescues onions that were missed the first pass through by the harvester by raking them into the path where the previous ones were  already harvested. The harvester is a machine that goes straight and doesn’t turn very much, the raked onions are brought in front of  where the harvest head  is going to pass the next time it goes through.

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by Arleen Thaler

Jamaican seasonal workers pulling weeds from the muck field by hand in preparation of the onion harvest. The seasonal workers are an integral part of the farm and have been employed for many years. They are humble in their work, not fully realizing how much the farmers appreciate them. Each worker is brought here on a government run H2-A program from their homelands of Jamaica and Mexico to Datthyn Farms.

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by Arleen Thaler

The harvester, moving in a straight line, picks up onions and conveys them onto the back of a tractor as it slowly moves along. Harvest machines are rigid in their movement, allowing only straight lines, creating linear patterns in the muck.

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by Arleen Thaler

Eric Tuttle carries the harvested onions to wooden crates where they will be dumped and begin the several week long drying process.

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by Arleen Thaler

As each drying crate is filled with onions, the workers stand by navigating the tractor and covering the tops of the crates with plastic. From here they will be brought up to a drying pad where they will be stacked two high with space in between. There they will sit outside in the natural elements and take 3-4 weeks for the skin to start falling off, called shucking, then brought into storage for the year until they are ready to be packed.

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by Arleen Thaler

These empty drying crates are waiting and ready to be filled.

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by Arleen Thaler

After the onions have gone through a brusher, a method of removing several layers of skin to remove the dirt, they then are sized. The mechanical process of sizing puts them into the various sizes, jumbo, mediums and boilers, boilers being the smallest onion. Workers then inspect them on conveyor belts for defects or anything that may have slipped through proper sizing.

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by Arleen Thaler

These onions are brushed twice to ensure that all dirt is removed and the tops snipped off, with another thorough inspection for any that may look unsightly to the consumer.

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by Arleen Thaler

The final stage as the onions get bagged after being weighed in a packing machine. The clicking and whirring noise in the back ground providing a steady rhythm to the workers pace.

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by Arleen Thaler

The final product, K.S. Datthyn Farms onions bagged and ready to ship.

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Images courtesy K.S. Datthyn Farm

Young Tuttle sons enjoy the tradition of walking the farm and conversing about life with their father, Eric. For these little guys Easter will carry the tradition of planting onions, and Autumn the smell of the harvest.

2016 All Rights Reserved © Arleen Thaler Photography

  1. Post-Standard, Debra. “Nutrient-rich Muck Makes Perfect Soil for Crops in Central New York.” Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
  2. Tuttle, Eric. “K.S. Datthyn FArm.” K.S. Datthyn FArm. K.S. Datthyn FArm. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

 

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