Heritage Breeds and Heirlooms Specialties of Cross Island Farms
After a busy morning laying three huge eggs, Cross Island Farms’ five strikingly large ducks seek out shade for the remainder of the day. The ducks’ abnormally hefty size is not from growth additives, but the result of their uncommon genetic makeup. They are a rare breed originating in England called Silver Appleyards.
The ducks’ rarity is what makes them desirable to Cross Island Farms’ owners, David Belding and Dani Baker, who are enthusiastic about raising rare, heritage breed livestock and growing unusual, heirloom vegetables at their certified organic farm on Wellesley Island.
Heritage breeds and heirloom vegetables are varieties that have been developed for specific qualities, often in a specific town or region, and handed down through the generations. They frequently carry genetic traits that have been lost in our modern high-production agricultural system. “Biodiversity is essential to continued life on the planet,” comments Belding.
The animals also have characteristics that align well with Belding’s style of livestock management. “A lot of it has to do with the ability to raise themselves and be part of a low input system. [Plus] the quality of meat or eggs they produce,” he explains. Cross Island Farms’ Silver Appleyard ducks, Kiko goats, Tamworth pigs, Ameraucana chickens, Bourbon Red Turkeys, Belted Galloway and Red Devon cows prosper in this particular organic farm setting.
Heirloom and specialty vegetables, with their unusual appearances and complex flavors, create attractive and intriguing gardens. “I grow these unusual things because it distinguishes our farm. I’m always trying new varieties, [and] eliminating ones that don’t work,” Baker explains. The vegetables, she adds, “have to be beautiful, that’s important to me, [and have] fabulous flavor.” Bakers favorite heirloom group is Italian vegetables (she purchases seeds imported from Italy) such as Red Torpedo onions, a preferred choice of the chef of The Black River Valley Club.
Cross Island Farms’ specialty organic products are available year-round at the farm and its produce is now offered at the new Clayton Food Co-op. Educational organic farm tours can be arranged by appointment. You can visit Cross Island Farms on line at www.crossislandfarms.com and find them on Facebook.
Cross Island Farms is one of several Thousand Islands area attractions participating in the Farm & Food, Family Open Door Weekend July 21 and 22.. Why not stop in at Cross Island Farms for a tour to see the rare breeds, gorgeous gardens and lush pastures for a wonderful, interactive organic farm experience! Then visit the Clayton Food Co-op’s Grand Opening Celebration, take a walk on the pastoral trails at the Thousand Island Land Trust’s Zenda Farm Preserve, and round out the day by visiting the Thousand Islands and/or the Coyote Moon Winery, all within a 5 mile radius. For additional information about the Farm & Food, Family Open Door Weekend visit www.agvisit.com.