Press-Republican

September 16, 2012

Celebrate your harvest, whether forest or farm

By ELIZABETH LEELiving With Wilderness
Press-Republican

---- — This weekend marks the beginning of Adirondack Harvest Festival. At DaCy Meadow Farm in Westport it’s not just about the farm it’s also about the forest.

Many small farmers have at least some wooded property. In the case of DaCy Meadow Farm, the forested land is part of a mosaic that supports both woodland and farm habitats. Dave and Cynthia Johnston raise heritage strains of livestock and offer farm-to-table dining.

In showing me his property, Dave explained, “Raising heritage livestock is our way of preserving farmland and maintaining genetic diversity in the food supply. It is also important that we employ farming practices that protect and preserve the plants, animals and habitats for which we are stewards.”

To preserve biodiversity on their land, Dave and his wife, Cynthia, have carefully crafted an agricultural plan that takes into consideration the needs of the wildlife with whom they share their 150 acres and the quality of the water that flows into the wetland from their fields. They leave wide buffers at the edge of pastures and are careful about drainage near the pond where wetland birds nest.

For visitors who come to enjoy the farm-raised food, they have created a trail system that features woodland, streamside and wetland habitats. They are deliberately combining purposes: preserve farmland, conserve forested land for wild inhabitants, manage trees for harvest and rebuild connections between people and the land.

The trails at DaCy Meadow Farm form a network that are accessible for all ages and interesting throughout the year. 

Beginning from the barns, one trail crosses a pasture and heads into mixed hardwood forest. A short detour leads to a pretty hornbeam and hickory glade that breaks up the dense cover of nearby hemlocks. Soon the trail reopens into a broad pasture from which you can see Camel’s Hump in Vermont peaking over the horizon.

After crossing another pasture, complete with shaggy cows, spunky calves and glacial erratics, the trail winds down to Hoisington Brook. Shortly ahead, the trail opens into a former beaver pond. What was bare mud last spring is now covered with tall grasses, sedges and wildflowers — excellent habitat for all sorts of wildlife and plenty of sign that birds and animals are using it.

Passing the old beaver flow the trail now follows harrowed fields waiting for winter seed. Another short detour into a pond that hosts herons and you are back in the shade along another small stream before returning to the barn. On Sundays, a delicious brunch made from farm produce and meat are waiting when you get there.

At DaCy Meadow Farm, the forest is still home to deer and all the predators who hunt them. Still home to mink and trout in the brook and ducks in the pond. A broad-winged hawk flew over our heads as we walked the trail this week.

The trails are available to the public as part of farm-to-table dining events and for guests at CynDa Croft, the lodging facility on the Johnston’s adjoining property. Parts of the trails are fenced for the livestock so prior notice is necessary for access.

Side-by-side forest and farm enterprises build economic and ecosystem vitality. And for adventuresome chefs there are wild mushrooms to go with our fingerling potatoes and tomato cobbler. All bets are off when you have to choose between venison tenderloin medallions or heritage beef brisket. Try some mustang grape jelly with your rutabagas at the Rutabaga Festival in Keene Valley next Saturday, Sept. 23.

Whether in the forest or on the farm, celebrate your harvest.

Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at lakeside5047@gmail.com.

TO LEARN MORE DaCy Meadow Farm 7103 N.Y.S. Route 9N P.O.Box 323 Westport, NY 12993 Phone: 962-2350 Email: Dacymeadow farm@yahoo.com