The day started with a pair of muck boots. When days dawn bright and clear, and your footwear includes a pair of rubber boots ready for splashing through puddles and farm fields, you know it’s going to be a grand day.
I hastily pulled them on over my pant legs, grabbed my breakfast sandwich and ran out the door. To the Hub on the Hill, I sang as I climbed into my car. Living in Westport, NY, in the Lake Champlain Region, I love connecting with the local farmers and makers that call our slice of Adirondack paradise home. This today, this muck boot day, I planned to take a new approach to how I visited my friendly, neighborhood farms.
When I arrived in Essex, NY at the Hub on the Hill, I was greeted with the familiar smiling face of my good friend and fellow resident of Westport/employee of the Hub, Valentina. Her excitement as we started the tour reminded me of the passion and commitment the Lake Champlain Region’s farming community is increasingly famous for. A little side note, about The Hub; the Hub supports and promotes all of the local farms and food makers in the Eastern Adirondacks. They offer services to assist with streamlining production, packaging, and distribution of the products from these local farms and aims to foster collaboration and inspiration surrounding the farming community.
From the outside, the Hub looks like a pole barn on a hill, but when you step inside, it is a winding and impressive maze of office space, maker’s spaces, production rooms, freezers, packaging equipment, and a very welcoming, warm, and quaint farm store that is the first room you enter.
After touring the Hub’s expansive commercial kitchen, storage hall, and co-packaging space we headed back out front to the market where I stuffed my wicker basket with grass-fed ground beef, fresh arugula, pickled beans, and some honey for my afternoon tea. The shop also offers things from the makers, including: homemade crafts like wooden cutting boards, bowls, and utensils, spun wool and yarn, books, and much more. The best part is that the Adirondacks surrounding farms like KZ Farm, Asgaard Farm & Dairy, Reber Rock, Dak & Dill, all sell their outstanding stock of products at the Hub. So, while I recommend exploring each farm when you get the chance, the Hub makes it easy to streamline your grocery shopping!
I almost forgot, in my basket of goodies was fresh Havarti cheese from North Country Creamery to eat throughout my farm journeys for the day, just to be sure I had enough fuel.
The Hub - Farm, Field, and Milking Stall to Table!
I headed over to Essex Farm next – which happens to be just down the hill from the Hub on the Hill. Essex Farm is a 1,100 acre sustainable diversified farm that offers a year-round, full diet, CSA share (community supported agriculture). A full diet farming structure means they supply meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, and fruit. A little slice of everything! It was also made famous by Kristin Kimball, author of the fab book The Dirty Life, which as far as I’m concerned is a must-read.
During this tour, I met up with a friend who was butchering that morning. I sloshed through the mud and rain to meet him in his freezer trailer just in time to get a quick run-down on cutting the round (or backend) of the beef. I left my chilly tour with a nice flank steak as a souvenir. Although I had to keep moving, I will definitely be back. Side note: I grilled that steak the next night for dinner. Oh mama mia, it was amazing! A little chef tip; let the steak rest for five minutes after taking it off the grill to allow all of the juiciness and flavor to soak in. you won’t be disappointed.
I took a left out of the long farm driveway, waved to the hub on the Hill as I drove by and took off down a winding back country road where I found myself surrounded by open meadows and fields with those Adirondack panoramic mountain views in the distance just below the cloud line. I almost missed the turnoff to the next farm, Reber Rock Farm which is also located in Essex, NY. A 120 acre draft-powered farm that specializes in grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, small grains, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and maple syrup. Reber Rock is well known for their use of draft horses for their forestry and logging services. Horse logging allows for low-impact harvesting methods which supports restorative forestry practices. It’s also pretty cool to watch in action.
Last but not least on my “tour de farms” was Asgaard Farm & Dairy located in Ausable Forks, NY. Talk about an epic and breathtaking view of the mountains. This farm takes the cake! From its beautiful pastures, to its impeccably clean and spectacular barns, I would absolutely put this farm at the top of my list. Plus, baby goats. Everywhere! I did not see Thor though. For any fellow history buffs, Asgaard Farm was once home to artist, writer, and political activist Rockwell Kent who not only used the picturesque surroundings as the inspiration for his paintings but also ran the dairy farm once upon a time.
The biggest thing I took away from having the chance to speak with the local farmers and spend time with my community, is that every farm collaborates to better our community and region as a whole to offer sustainable options for locally sourced food and goods.
Ending my tour in Ausable Forks allowed me to shoot over to the Ausable Brewery in Keeseville, NY for a cold beer, delicious BBQ from Dubb’s BBQ and free live music by Ploughman’s Lunch, a local group and a definite favorite of mine that play every Friday. I kicked back with my Jungle Hustler Hoppy Red ale and a slice of homemade cornbread and let the music take over.
Ah, yes. This was an excellent, locally-sourced day.