By Mary Godnick, Adirondack Harvest Communication Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County
The Thurman Fall Farm Tour is a tradition in the Southern Adirondacks that has been carried on for over 5 years. The annual event is hosted by the Thurman Community Association and the Town of Thurman is an offshoot of Thurman “Maple Days”, a similar spring event where the public is invited to maple producers locations for tours, demonstrations, and to celebrate the maple harvest. Thurman has a population of under 2,000 and lays just outside the greater Glens Falls, Lake George and Queensbury area nestled along the Hudson River. It is a lovely rural place to visit, especially during the fall with the changing foliage.
The Fall Farm Tour was held on Saturday, October 9, and organized so participants could visit several nine different nearby farms and locations for workshops, meals, guided and self-guided tours. My partner and I set out to visit four different farms along the route, Blackberry Hill Farm, Toad Hill Maple, Nettle Meadow Farm, and Rustic Acres homestead.
Our first stop was at Blackberry Hill Farm, a “diversified family farm that produces an assortment of vegetables, herbs and meat” in Athol, NY. They pride themselves on their practices being “above and beyond organic.” They were serving breakfast sandwiches made with fresh homemade english muffins, eggs, bacon, and sausage from their chickens and heritage breed pigs. We enjoyed breakfast alongside about 50 other event participants in a nice picnic area. Then we took a self-guided tour around the farm. We visited their high tunnel where peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and greens were growing. I spent some time visiting the resident goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows. Then, we visited their farm store where they sold homemade bread, jams, pasture-raised meat, and local honey.
You can visit the Blackberry Hill Farm farmstand by appointment in the Spring and Summer, or visit their stand at the Chestertown, Indian Lake, Spa City, North Creek, and Warrensburg farmers’ markets. Learn more on their website at blackberryhillfarmadk.com.
The next stop on our list was Toad Hill Maple. Toad Hill Maple is a family maple farm and producer in Athol, NY. The family business stewards over 850 acres of forest where the current owner’s great-grandparents had a subsistence homestead. In honor of the Fall Farm Tour, their maple shop was open selling their maple products and gifts, they had fresh-made maple donuts, wagon rides to the sugarbush, and a pumpkin chunkin’ trebuchet.
After visiting the farmstore and stocking up on a half-gallon of their syrup, we enjoyed warm maple donuts and watched a demonstration on how the maple sap is turned into maple syrup. Then, the pumpkin chunkin’ began, and a crowd of families cheered as they launched massive pumpkins across the field on their homemade trebuchet.
You can visit Toad Hill Farm by appointment for tours and visits to the farmstore. They also host many open house events, including the Thurman Maple Days. Their products can also be purchased online at toadhillmaple.com.
Up next, we hopped over to Nettle Meadow Farm for a farm tour. Nettle Meadow is a dairy farm, artisanal cheesemaker, and animal sanctuary in Warrensburg, NY. Nettle Meadow was hosting farm tours every half-hour and self-guided tours of their property. We visited with many of the goats, sheep, donkeys, and other critters that call Nettle Meadow Home. The farm was founded in 1990 by Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase. Today, Nettle Meadow makes award-winning hand-crafted artisan cheeses with natural ingredients with milk from their herd of sheep, goats, and cows. They also operate the Kemp Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary home to over 100 retired, elderly, and differently-abled animals. Our stop was not complete without picking up a round of their world famous soft-aged cheese.
You can buy Nettle Meadow Cheese across the country and locally. You can also visit Nettle Meadow Farm on Saturdays at noon for a farm tour. They also sell their cheese online during the holiday season.
Our final stop was at Rustic Acres, a new homestead close to Warrensburg. Owners Flo and Todd are working to steward their new property, where they grow vegetables and raise chickens and beef cows in the forest near the Hudson River. When we arrived, they were offering demonstrations on how flax is turned into linen with traditional tools. Using dried flax plants that they grew, they showed how the outer husk is removed from the interior fiber, then spun into thread and string. We also had a chance to visit their farm animals that happily live between the trees along the hill of their farm.
Stay tuned to learn more about future workshops and offerings at Rustic Acres.
We finished our day with a picnic along the Hudson river made of the many goodies we picked up along our stops. Overall it was a great fall day to get out and learn more about the variety of different ways folks are farming in the Thurman area. I particularly enjoyed learning about how each producer individually grows and produces food that is healthy for the land, animals, and people in their communities.
Big thanks to the Thurman Community Association and farmers that made the event happen!