Late last week I ventured into the most picturesque valley you can imagine. This valley, extending from Wadhams into Essex, glides along the banks of the Boquet River flanked by the gorgeous Adirondacks. Vistas revealed quaint farm buildings surrounded by scenic agricultural land and pastures dotted with a variety of farm animals. I was on my way to the Echo Farm to connect with Dillon Klepetar of Farmstead Catering to learn about his operation and the catering service he provides to major events — specifically weddings.
It was one of those March mornings where the mist rose from the valley, gently brushing the mountains as it disappeared into what was about to become a bright, blue sky day. I turned in Wadhams right at the Dogwood Bread Company making a mental note to grab some of their fabulous bread on my return trip. The road meandered along the Boquet River before my directions told me to turn onto Walker Road to find the Echo Farm. I passed Ted Cornell’s Art Farm and the trailhead of Champlain Area Trail’s Art Farm Trail and could not remember ever going further on this particular road.
A bit further, there it was. “You’ll see the big red barn at the bend in the road,” Dillon had told me. I learned that Echo Farm is a name that had been given to this gorgeous piece of farmland some time ago. The pastures and farm fields are flanked by steep-sided Adirondack Mountains so that it really does produce an echo if you yell loud enough, or yodel. I declined the offer to test my yodeling skills. Instead, I accompanied Dillon about the farm meeting a variety of animals and learning what I could about the operation of the farm and the direct benefit of Farmstead Catering.
We went to see the goats and I immediately made three new friends - Cardamom, Vern, and Violet - who came to greet me while the rest of the herd chewed their cud. This friendly, affectionate trio gave me the sniff test and nibbled at my jacket while I was thoroughly entertained giving them some good neck scratches and watching their antics. I learned eight new kids were due the following week and thought it wise I made my visit prior to delivery date or I might have found it difficult to leave.
The more I learned about Echo Farm, the more impressed I was with Dillon’s approach and practices of humane, sustainable small-scale farming. The entire operation is very sophisticated in an ecological way and steeped with healthful common sense while leaving a minimal carbon footprint. Every living creature in residence contributes to this organic, natural farming practice while generating a profusion of products; all in a very happy, peaceful environment.
The goats are pastured among rotating paddocks throughout the season. This keeps them in a sunny outdoor environment with an abundance of fresh grazing while naturally fertilizing the fields. The chickens have rotating paddocks too, along with a portable shelter/coop for egg laying activity and protection. Even the pigs get out and about, not only to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, but also to do what they like to do — forage about. Their grub searching and ground churning helps to cultivate future planting gardens. Work at a farm never ends and here everyone happily pitches in.
It was a bit too early in the season to see any of the flowers and vegetables growing in the fields, but I could envision colorful growth throughout the garden areas as Dillon explained this season’s plans. “We grow, or produce, everything that goes into a catered meal except the salt and pepper,” he told me. Looking at the sample menu offerings on Farmstead Catering’s website, I recognized that the talent of this catering operation extends beyond the growing, raising, and producing of the ingredients, or even farm and business management. From their website I reviewed sample menu selections. With photos and descriptions of choices like Hawaiian ginger (grown on the farm) and carrot soup with crème fraiche and bacon, and chicken cacciatore with morel mushrooms and wild leeks, I saw evidence of sophisticated culinary skills. Application of a discriminating palate and a flair for presentation is clearly evident too.
Dillon explained that he likes to have couples considering Farmstead Catering for their wedding visit the farm, get to know the operation and understand the entire process from growth to final presentation. Menus can be planned to take full advantage of the freshest ingredients for the season, whether a spring, summer, or fall wedding. Clients take ownership of all that is produced for their wedding and are welcome to be involved. The catered meals are prepared in nearby commercial kitchens at either the Whallonsburg Grange or the Hub on the Hill.
Black Kettle Farm
Catering weddings can be done within a 150-mile radius, but Dillon made me aware of a delightful wedding venue merely a couple of miles away. We drove off to see a magnificent barn at Black Kettle Farm in Essex.
This massive post and beam structure perfectly provides the ambience for a rustic, or barn, wedding. The huge building has the character and aura precisely fitting for an Adirondack country wedding - whether elegant or casual. The indoor area accommodates approximately 150 seated guests, but tents can be erected outside for additional guest space. In addition guests are able to make use of the grounds. Black Kettle Farm has approximately 200 acres of rolling fields and woodlands with a captivating view over Lake Champlain into the Green Mountains of Vermont. The farm is also the home to Lakeside School, a Waldorf-inspired early childhood and elementary school. What a perfect setting for an early education that fosters imagination and creativity.
The barn sees many guests. At the time of our visit the Lakeside School students had the interior set up for a play. Traditional barn dances are held here in the spring and fall.
Mad Crazy Flowers at Juniper Hill Farm
I said goodbye to Dillon and the Echo Farm and made my way a few miles down the road to Mad Crazy Flowers at the Juniper Hill Farm. I was quickly discovering that this tight little valley was one-stop-shopping as far as what was needed for a genuine Adirondack destination wedding. I found Melody Horn, owner of Mad Crazy Flowers, busily at work in the greenhouse when I arrived at the farm. She continued her work while we chatted and I tried to stay out of her way. Early spring is a very busy time in the growing business.
Juniper Hill Farm is a large CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm growing certified naturally grown plants and vegetables; approximately 30-acres worth. The distribution of their flowers and vegetables extends from Saranac Lake to Saratoga, NY. They also supply many of our area restaurants and retail markets in addition to having a presence at seasonal farmers’ markets seven days a week. Not only is Melody kept busy with tasks at the farm operation, she personally oversees two solid acres of flowers for her Mad Crazy Flowers business that also caters weddings and special events.
To be honest, I hadn’t thought about flowers in a “farm-to-table” way. I think we are all a lot smarter regarding what we’re ingesting and feeding our bodies these days, but do we often apply the whole organic, locally produced way of thinking to flowers? Do we equally recognize how safeguarding our local environment from chemicals or pesticide residue that may be on imported plants protects us, our environment, and our pollinators? Talking to Melody I learned a great deal. She certainly expanded my perspective. The information she shared with me will definitely play a role in my own future garden bed selections, in addition to what I may put on the table for decoration.
Many plants were off to an early start inside the warm greenhouse. Though the sun was pouring in to heat plantings now, the tables upon which the flats rested were also heated by plumbing connections to a huge boiler, an added boost for new sprouts on the colder days and nights.
I learned from Melody that Juniper Hill Farm is prepared to serve as a wedding venue too. The farm is set on a hill and as I looked out at the clearly visible, phenomenal Adirondack horizon, I could imagine what a backdrop that would make for wedding photos and atmosphere in general.
When I left this gorgeous segment of the Boquet River Valley the sun began to break through. And I did remember to stop by the Dogwood Bread Company where I found a loaf of jalapeno cheddar still warm from the oven. What an uplifting morning.
In related ADK news: Put a ring on it ADK style