WARRENSBURG, N.Y. — To former school bus mechanic Bob Barody, farming isn’t a business, but a way of life and a dedication to healthy leaving.
For many years, he and his wife, Irene, were vegetarians and decided they’d never eat meat again unless it was their own.
Now they raise poultry, pork and grass-fed beef at their Blackberry Hill Farm in the southern Adirondacks, one of only two certified organic farms in all of Warren County.
“We always had gardens and animals,” Bob Barody said. “We had to jump in all the way to make it happen. It’s very tough, farming isn’t easy and being certified organic is a lot of extra work. That’s why a lot of people say they follow organic practices, but they aren’t certified. We’re certified organic. We’ve got that logo. When people see that, they understand we’re the real deal.”
The extra effort pays off financially when selling goods at events such as the recent Southern Adirondack Local Food and Craft Beverage Festival. It’s one of six special events scheduled this year by the Warrensburgh Riverfront Farmers Market, held each Friday from 3-6 p.m., giving local residents and seasonal camp owners alike a variety of fresh items to choose from.
Warrensburg is a gateway to the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, which attracts countless summer vacationers each year.
Other upcoming market festivals are Adirondack Riverfront Arts on July 21, Bountiful Harvest on Aug. 16, Apple on Sept. 13 and Garlic on Oct. 11.
“It’s great,” said market visitor Paul Schule. “You get to try local fare. We like the cheese, meat and beer products. They’re very good.”
“Plus I like the breads and pastries,” said his wife, Arlene.
The market is the first place they stop to stock up with goods for weekends in the Adirondacks.
The Barodys purchased 25 acres and founded Blackberry Hill Farm in 2014.
“We bought the land with the intent of doing things on a larger scale,” Bob Barody said. “We just wanted better quality food. It’s definitely a lifestyle change.”
In addition to meat products, Blackberry Hill also raises crops such as lettuce, peppers and herbs.
North Country farming isn’t easy because of the harsh climate and short growing season.
“We’ll hopefully have a high tunnel next year so we can expand production,” Bob Barody said.
The couple obtained certification through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.
“There’s total accountability because when you’re audited they want the numbers, right down to how many seeds you put in the ground, how many cucumbers you pick, how many you throw away and how many you sell,” he said. “You also have to use certain topsoil. Everything has to be certified organic.”
In addition to Warrensburg, Blackberry Hill Farm also participates in three other Adirondack region farmers markets in North Creek, Chestertown and Indian Lake.
“The demographic is completely different at each market,” said Wes Ramsey, of Nettle Meadow Farm, an award-winning cheese producer.
He offered market visitors a variety of samples including the farm’s popular kunic, which is a three-cream cheese made with goat, sheep and cow’s cream plus cow and goat milk.
“Unlike brie, which is made from two creams, this is a triple cream so it’s smoother and creamier,” Ramsey said.
Nettle Meadow’s tasty amber kunic is aged a bit longer and washed in an amber ale and Irish whiskey.
Upstate New York’s craft beverage industry has boomed in recent years, benefiting agriculture as well. Warrensburg farmers market member Glens Falls Distillery specializes in making bourbon, whiskey and moonshine, which comes in a several flavors such as cinnamon and barrel-aged honey.
“I sealed and corked all of these bottles,” said co-owner Ann Ettinger, who runs the business with her husband, Bernard.
Aside from being good for business, Ann Ettinger said she likes the social aspect of farmers markets, which in many ways are carrying on a centuries-old tradition much like markets in Medieval Europe.
“We love just meeting and talking to people,” she said. “They don’t just come to get something and leave, like they would at a supermarket. It’s a great place to see friends.”
Adirondack Gold Maple Farm owners Mark and Cheryl Kenyon said the Warrensburg market provides their main source of income.
“We don’t do online sales,” he said. “This is very important for the local people. They’re the ones who recognize us. They’re buying local because they know the local farmer. They’ve been to our farm, they know who I am and what we do. So it’s great for them to see us at the market.”
Caldwell Country Farm also takes part in farmers markets in nearby Lake George and Bolton Landing, which are both popular resort towns.
This year’s unusually wet, cold weather has hampered production, but Ashley Monroe, who works the farm with her parents, Dale and Hildy, was still able to provide a variety of fresh goods thanks to the farm’s high tunnel.
“If we didn’t have the high tunnel we probably would have lost most of our crop,” she said.
They also have a large outdoor garden and plant crops throughout the property, based on their individual needs.
“For example, we have celery that prefers cooler weather so we plant it next to the brook where it does better,” Monroe said. “I like to experiment and try growing different things. Romaine is new this year for us. We also have husked cherries, which are in the tomato family, but they have a pineapple flavor. They look like cherry tomatoes, but they have a husk on them and we have pine berry that looks like a strawberry, but it’s white.”