A True Love Story

Jim and Irene Story, Story Farms, Catskill

In the heart of Greene County, where the Catskill Mountains form an undulating backdrop, Jim and Irene Story run his family’s 1,100 acre farm. Seven days a week, from early morning until evening, they and Jim’s mother, Margaret (“Peggy”), and brother Matt have helped Story Farms step into a fifth generation, not only running the farm (which produces fruit, vegetables, and milk) but also operating the popular farm stand and pick-your-own area. 

Irene laughs when she explains that she had no idea what she was getting into when she and Jim met by chance at an area restaurant in 1978. She was 21 years old and studying nutrition; he was 23 and helping his parents and brother operate the farm, which was started in 1896 by Jim’s great-grandfather. (Four sisters decided not to enter the family business.) “There was an instant attraction,” Irene recalls of the first time she met Jim.

They got engaged six months later. Then, the idea of working alongside her husband seemed natural, but it quickly became “an adjustment,” she says. Especially since she had grown up in the city (Philadelphia). “Jim had never thought of doing anything else, so I knew this would be our life,” she says, noting that she didn’t really know what “this life” would be like. She joined Peggy to sell at the farm stand while Jim, other male relatives, and employees worked the fields, milked cows and tended chickens. “I saw an unbelievable work ethic,” Irene says.

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A clear division of labor and the family’s casual, democratic way of conducting business help make everything run smoothly. Minor disagreements, about things such as how items are displayed, are worked out. “We’re just like any family, but are good about talking things through, and moving forward,” she says. And they’ve survived much bigger challenges. Five years ago, Hurricane Irene destroyed everything. “It was a sobering time,” Irene says.

The glue that truly holds them together, though, may be their continued fondness and respect for each other. “I have no horror stories to report,” she says. Jim’s a bit gushier, saying, “I love being in business together.” In the winter, when work slows, they find time to get away to California or Florida. And they both still love the farming life. “We’re rooted to this lifestyle,” she says. Jim concurs. “About 15 years ago, a developer wanted to buy a large section of our land to build houses, and he got upset when I wouldn’t listen,” he recalls. “Our dream is to have it in the family for generations.” 

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