By Garet D. Livermore, executive director, Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County
Obtaining fresh food in the Adirondacks has always been a challenge. Between the cold climate and the poor glacial soil riddled with stones and boulders, farming in the Adirondacks is, at best, a difficult proposition. The indigenous people of the region, the Mohawks of the Haudenosaunee nation had large settlements in the rich river valleys that surround the Adirondacks that supported large farms that grew the “three sisters” (corn, beans and squash) that sustained their communities. When they came into the central Adirondacks, they brought these food staples with them to supplement the fish and game of the mountains.
The European settlers coming into the Adirondacks in the 19th century attempted farming, but few stayed on the land for long. The growing conditions were simply too poor to support lasting settlements. Within a generation most moved on to western lands that were more hospitable to growing foods and building communities.
Today’s Adirondackers face similar challenges in keeping their families well fed. Many year-round residents plan for elaborate monthly shopping trips to Utica or Glens Falls to stock up on essential food items. Similarly, vacationers often arrive in rented cabins or to campsites with coolers stuffed with all of the food that they need for their vacations.