There’s a food revolution taking place in the Adirondacks. Small farms throughout the region are lovingly crafting cheese, raising cattle, sheep, and goats, and tending vegetable plots, developing and crafting flavorful, gourmet products that are much in demand, influencing how locals and visitors eat. In the Adirondacks, farm to table isn’t just a restaurant theme, it’s a way of life.
Two local farms, Asgaard Farm & Dairy and Sugar House Creamery, both makers of award-winning cheeses and advocates for regional food, take the artisan farm experience to the next level with farmstays: overnight accommodations right on the farm, providing visitors with an unforgettable vacation experience, while close to the amazing recreational opportunities in the region, like fishing, hiking, skiing and paddling.
Asgaard Farm & Dairy occupies a wide expanse of land on the banks above the East Branch of the Ausable River, south of the village of Ausable Forks. The farm was designed and built in the 1920s by American artist and adventurer Rockwell Kent, who named the property after a mythical Norse land that was home to the gods and was more fertile than any other. From the 1920s until his death in 1971, Kent lived on the farm and worked in a studio on the property, frequently making the Adirondack landscape a subject of his iconic paintings.
Flash forward to 1988. Asgaard Farm, long out of use as a working dairy, was for sale. Rhonda Butler and David Brunner, then residents of New York City, were keen to get out from behind their desks and in purchasing Asgaard, relished the prospect of bringing the historic property back to life. Over the last fifteen years, Rhonda and David have revived Asgaard as a working farm, focusing their efforts on a lively herd of goats, producing goat's milk cheese and celebrating local agriculture. Tucked away beyond the dairy, screened by a swath of trees, sits The Emerson House, Asgaard’s enchanting farmstay property.
The Emerson House was designed in the 1930s by Kent, who studied architecture before focusing on painting. When Rhonda and David purchased the farm, the house needed work, but the couple saw great potential in the house with its view across the fields to Whiteface. David’s background as an engineer helped the couple creatively restore and update the home. Today, it retains original charm while feeling fresh and welcoming.
One of the first things a visitor to The Emerson House notices is the feeling of relaxed spaciousness. A broad porch wraps around three sides of the house, perfect for watching sunsets, gazing at the nearby peaks, and admiring Asgaard's roaming livestock. Inside, you'll be ready to sink into the sofa and pick up a thoughtfully supplied guidebook, enjoy fresh breezes on the screened porch, or gather the family for a board game in the kitchen nook.
The entire home is full of carefully curated touches, including original art, prints of Kent's work, two beautiful bedrooms (one double, the other with two twin beds), and a deep bathtub with a sensational view. Without televisions or WiFi, and with limited cell service, life in The Emerson House feels simpler, more relaxed, and peaceful. You want to slow down and savor life here, go for a stroll down to the barn, or hike the trails leading to the small mountains across the road.
Settling in, your thoughts might turn to dinner, encouraged by the grill on the lawn and the wonderfully equipped kitchen. Asgaard is a great destination for foodies, as the farm's store is well stocked with cheese, eggs, local meat, yogurt, maple syrup, and candy, all from Asgaard and neighboring farms. Guests are invited to help collect eggs and take a few back to Emerson for their breakfast, an activity young visitors are especially keen on.
As if a farmstay at The Emerson House doesn't sound enticing enough, there's the rest of the farm property to explore, including the goat barn, the roving chicken coop, and Rockwell Kent's studio.
Kent's studio, with its large north-facing windows, still holds many of Kent's supplies, including paint-speckled easels, used paintbrushes, and framing tools. It's not often that one gets the opportunity to visit the studio of a renowned painter and for art enthusiasts, it's a moving experience. Even if you aren't interested in art, you can't help but enjoy the walk along fields and through the pines to the studio.
One of the highlights of any visit to Asgaard, but especially for those staying overnight, is the opportunity to interact with the farm's animals. Asgaard's herd of goats are cute, charming, and friendly, making great farm ambassadors to visitors of all ages. It is these goats — lovingly tended by Rhonda, David, and their team — who provide the milk that the dairy turns into exquisite cheese. The staff at Asgaard encourages guests to join in farm activities and one of the most popular is to help bring the goats in from the pasture for their afternoon milking.
Although Asgaard is beautiful in every season — you can ski and snowshoe right on the property in the winter — springtime visitors get an extra bonus, because it's kidding time! The delightful, joyous bleats, hops, and nibbles, not to mention the soft, floppy ears, of young goats will make you want to start your very own goat farm. At the very least, you'll want to stay at Asgaard forever, surrounded by kids and the fresh Adirondack air. Kent's vision of the property as a fertile haven holds true.
A few miles and a turn or two down Route 9 to Upper Jay will bring you to Sugar House Creamery, the home and farm of Margot Brooks, Alex Eaton, their toddler Harriet, cheesemaker Casey Galligan, and a herd of brown Swiss cows. Tucked into a hilly landscape, the property at Sugar House doesn't feel like a farm so much as it does a small, Alpine village. Clustered on the hillside are picturesque barns, houses (one the former sugar house itself), and the farm store, all surrounded by vibrant green that is everywhere: grass, trees, and Ebenezer Mountain, which overlooks it all.
Margot and Alex purchased the property seven years ago, spending their first year establishing the farm, which now produces some of the most popular — and cleverly named — cow's milk cheese in the Adirondacks. Like the care that goes into their cheese, Alex and Margot have carefully crafted the Sugar House farmstay experience, creating two spaces that are inviting, sunny, and right in the middle of all of the farm's action.
Above the carriage barn is a new loft that feels like a cozy farmhouse, with beadboard on the ceiling and a woodstove in the corner of the sitting area. Bookshelves full of treasures are within reach, as is a record player and a cool selection of vinyl. Repeat guests even bring their own! A favorite activity for guests in the carriage house is to sit on the deck, perched above the hillside, soaking in the scenery with fresh cheese, local brews, and an up close view of the farm's twelve brown Swiss cows.
The Carriage House has a fabulous kitchen, perfect for making a hearty breakfast before a day of hiking or dinner at the end of a day of sightseeing. Alex and Margot keep the farm store stocked with plenty of goodies from Sugar House and other local and artisan producers, so the options are plentiful, delicious, and fresh. You might even find a locally crafted gift, perfect for taking home as a treasured reminder of your stay.
The second overnight option at Sugar House is the Guest Quarters, a self-contained space on the back of one of the farmhouses. Although slightly smaller, the Guest Quarters have the same cozy charm as the Carriage House, with art, antiques, books (some of them about cheese!), and Sugar House's trademark details, including a record player and art supplies. A note on the desk, near the colored pencils and watercolors, says, "Leave us a note or draw a picture!"
Guests always have the opportunity to walk around the property, and stroll over to the dairy barn to watch the milking, meet the cows, and learn more from Margot and the team. The animals here are deeply loved and cared for. As Margot notes, Adirondackers are proud to live here and proud of local food. The respect and love that Margot, Alex, and everyone involved with Sugar House shows that they share that pride, as they help create a foodie paradise, feeding locals and visitors and playing an important, sustainable role in their community.
A farmstay at either Asgaard or Sugar House will make for a vacation that is uniquely Adirondack, perfect for families of all ages, couples' getaways, or even a staycation for locals. Whether you want to live the farm life or simply have an amazing base camp for your Adirondack adventures, you'll feel at home on the farm, leaving with a greater love of local food, agriculture, and the dedication of artisan farmers.
Both Asgaard Farm & Dairy and Sugar House Creamery host special events throughout the year, great opportunities for the public to visit the farms, interact with the animals and farmers, sample products, and learn more about the farms of the Adirondacks. Be sure to check our events page to find out more.
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