Saturday, November 14, 2009

New York State farm stays: Brookton Hollow Farm

Central New York’s Finger Lakes region, named for a handful of long, skinny lakes carved out by glaciers, has become famous for its wineries, and has a rich local foods culture that is beautifully displayed in places like the Ithaca Farmers Market.

Only a few miles from Ithaca, Brookton Hollow Farm and its dry bean and grain label, Cayuga Pure Organics, have become vital suppliers of New York’s burgeoning locavore population. Not only are the farm’s beans organic, they are also far fresher, more tender, faster cooking, and tastier than most dry beans. Brookton Hollow Farm’s owners, Erick and Debby Smith, host an organic, vegetarian, 3-bedroom bed and breakfast in their lovely farm home. Guests are welcome to explore the farm’s 135 acres, walk through the meadows and along Six-Mile Creek, go birding and wildlife watching, or simply relax in a hammock or on the porch. The B&B features solid wood construction and simple décor, and is heated entirely with wood. Erick and Debby built the house in 1984 with a focus on energy efficiency – the walls are 9 inches thick, and the house is fitted with solar water heating and electric systems.
Erick grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan. He was so excited to plow the fields that he used to run home from school to get on the tractor. He didn't return to farming, however, until he reached his 50s, after a career teaching mathematics. Even today, Erick finds cultivating fields crops deeply satisfying: he loves the process of taking a field unsuitable for growing crops, then turning over the ground, planting, and watching the seeds come up. Debby, a photographer, has restored and reopened the historic Brooktondale General Store. In addition to providing the village with healthy groceries, the general store now acts as a vital community center. Business for the dry beans and flour has been steadily improving, with Cayuga Pure Organics selling to the local co-op grocer and Mexican restaurant, as well as farmers markets and co-ops in New York City. Still, it's hard to compete with imported organic beans from China. By cutting out the middleman, Cayuga Pure Organics has gained more control over its prices. Some larger, conventional dry bean farmers have even admitted to envying the company’s strategy of selling directly to the consumer. Erick and Debby also rent an adjacent field to an organic farmer who raises vegetables using draft horses under the name The Gardens of Earthly Mirth. After buying the farm in 1976, Erick and Debby had a u-pick strawberry operation for a few years. Finding themselves with excess space when their children left the house, the couple decided to open a B&B. They hoped to continue meeting wonderful people like those who came to the farm to pick strawberries.

If you go:
Erick and Debby offer a 3-bedroom Bed and Breakfast, weekends only, in a modern green-built farmhouse on their 135-acre dry bean and grain farm. No children under 8 except by arrangement. Rates for two are $95-125.
18 Banks Rd
Brooktondale, New York 14817
(607) 273-5725

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