Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Small Scale Organic Farm In Chestertown

Landon Hill Farm photo by Anothony HallThe only certified organic farm in Warren County may be the smallest commercial farm in the county as well.

Operated by Rand Fosdick and Nancy Welch in Chestertown, the 10,000 square foot Landon Hill Estate Farm generates enough produce to stock the farm stand, provide weekly harvest baskets to subscribers and feed the couple and their friends.

Now in its second year of production, the farm is expected to register a profit next year, said Rand Fosdick.

“The farm supplements our incomes from other sources, but not everything can be reduced to economics,” said Fosdick. “There are social rewards, too. People appreciate the food we grow, they trust it, and they also appreciate the environment we’ve created here.”

To be certified as organic, farmers must demonstrate they have never planted genetically modified seeds or used synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, which certifies Landon Hill Estate Farm as organic, is a bit more verbose than Fosdick when enumerating the benefits of organic farms. “A sustainable food and farm system is socially just, humane, community-minded, ecologically sound and healthy for people,” the organization states.

It also reminds consumers that “the act of transporting food and farm products over long distances requires lots of packaging and contributes to global warming. If we make a commitment to buying organic food and farm products produced locally, we are safeguarding our planet.”

Local organizations also appear to appreciate the benefits of organic farms.

Fosdick and Welch of Landon Hill Farm photo by Anothony HallRecently, Fosdick and Welch were awarded a $5,000 grant from the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program at the Glens Falls Hospital to help more people, including those on physician-recommended diets and those who could not otherwise afford fresh produce, take advantage of their products.

“The program has supported community gardens in the past and we’re anxious to increase yields on organic farms like this one. Our goal is to get people on healthier diets and living healthier lives, and the Landon Hill Estate Farm furthers that goal,” said Bert Weber, a horticulturalist who’s a consultant for Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program.

Apart from securing economic and social benefits, the farm is rewarding in other ways as well, the couple said.

“I never have to mow the lawn again,” said Fosdick.

Indeed, instead of a lawn or backyard that would be mown every week or so, the couple’s 19th century farmhouse is surrounded by their vegetables, herbs and wildflowers.

That’s not only a better habitat for pollinators, the gardens’ curb appeal constitutes the couple’s sole marketing effort.

“People driving by were struck by the changes; we intentionally planted corn next to the road to attract attention, which it did and the word got out,” said Fosdick.

But perhaps the couple’s greatest incentive, said Fosdick, “was just to see if we could do it.”

“There’s a misconception that organic farming is more difficult than other types of farming because you can’t use pesticides or fertilizers. But if you create the right environment, it can be done,” he said.

Wildflowers, for instance, attract bugs that feed on pests, making pesticides unnecessary.

Treating the soil properly, including planting the gardens with cover crops in the fall, which stifle weeds and blight and enrich the soil with nutrients, removes the need for synthetic fertilizers.

“Organic gardening is something everyone can do if they have the dedication and can find the time. We’re in the garden three hours a day in July and August. That’s manageable,” he says.

The farm, which is open during July and August, is located at 95 Landon Hill Road, the original highway between Chestertown and Pottersville.

A version of this story was first published in the Lake George Mirror.

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Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.

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