October 5, 2012

Farm tour gives insight into daily life


---- — WILLSBORO — Though motorists pass by farms on a regular basis, they may not know much about the day-to-day operations of local food producers.

Adirondack Harvest, a community-based program designed to develop and promote farms and local food, has been celebrating the harvest season with special events, including farm tours.

“These Adirondack Harvest celebrations provide consumers with opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, taste products and have the opportunity to become Adirondack Harvest members,” Adirondack Harvest Coordinator Laurie Davis said.

“Members receive our marketing and promotional support, quarterly newsletters, workshop invitations and various premiums, from Adirondack Harvest hats and aprons to our ‘Three Farms’ DVD, ‘Small Farm Rising’ DVD, gift baskets and the Adirondack Harvest Cookbook with lots of great ideas for serving local foods.”

Events in the fall series included Forest and Farm at DaCy Meadow Farm in Westport, which included a hike on forest trails and brunch; Sugarbush Farm’s annual pig roast in Schroon Lake; and the fifth-annual Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival.


Another event, a Farmers, Friends & Food tour of the Ben Wever Farm in Willsboro, gave insight into the Shaun and Linda Gillilland family and their farm, which features grass-fed beef, poultry, lamb, trout, eggs and honey.

In addition to the tour, guests partook in a dinner in the field, under the stars, featuring food from local farms.

“I came here in 2000 and met Ben (Wever), who at 75 was the strongest guy you could have met,” recalled Linda Gillilland of the farm they purchased.

“Our first cow was Rosie, who delivered a calf. We then got Scottish Highlands cattle. When we moved here for good, it was a transitioning process. First, we brought chickens and ducks and then cows and horses. On our last load, we arrived late and just rolled out of the vehicle and slept on the ground.”


Linda and Shaun have made several changes, including adding acreage and digging a trout pond.

“This is our beach property,” quipped Linda. “The area was always wet, so we decided to put a pond here.”

They have expanded their operations by utilizing a neighboring farm that had not been in production for about 30 years. 


“Everything is a balancing act,” said Linda, referring to local predators such as foxes, hawks, coyotes, owls, fishers and an occasional bear.

Discussing the nearby grazing ovine creatures, which are prone to precarious situations, Linda drew chuckles form the three dozen or so attendees when she said, “A sheep gets up in the morning and says, ‘How can I kill myself?’”

The Gillillands balance the crops and animals by rotation, such as having the sheep graze in different areas so as to control weeds but not be there long enough to obliterate vegetation. The hogs also come in handy, especially for controlling poison ivy.

“Don’t say the word ‘pet’ on this farm,” Linda playfully admonishes a visitor. “If they are on the farm, they are either here to work or be eaten.”

Among the farm’s newest residents are a couple of American guinea hogs, which at one time were an endangered species that had been down to 35 breeding pairs.


The farm is whimsically decorated with a proclamation of “The Farmer’s Daughter” on a barn door, floral motifs on painted bird houses and the “Hennebago,” a moveable hen house. The latter, according to the credits on its side, was “created by Sabrina Smith, with omnipotent advising by Shai Walker and artwork by Shai and Linda.”

A farm stand on the property sells meats, vegetables and eggs and trusts patrons to deposit money when the Gillillands are not there.

Farming has taking over most of Linda’s life, as she proudly proclaimed.

“When other wives go looking for jewelry on shopping trips, I get excited finding a good deal on double barn doors.”    

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For additional information on Adirondack Harvest, contact Laurie Davis, coordinator, at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, 962-4810, Ext. 404; email,; or on the web,