Upper Valley Agriculture Tour: Something for Everyone
By: Emily Goulet, GSA Communications Director
It’s true that if you’re over-prepared for all types of weather, you’ll luck out, right? Well, it worked for us this past week on our Upper Valley Agriculture Tour! Driving up I-89, as it rained off and on, I wondered how wet we would get on our outdoor tour. Many GSAs procured their raincoats and umbrellas when we arrived….and as luck would have it, it didn’t rain again!
A group of GSAs (almost 50 of us!) enjoyed this splendid tour in the Upper Valley, focused on agritourism. We experienced many hidden gems of this area and were equally impressed at each stop. This tour was made possible by Tracy Hutchins, Upper Valley Business Alliance, and Ashlee Rowley, Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce!
We started the morning with a drive up I-89 to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish. Saint-Gaudens has a claim to fame as NH’s only national park. Some of our GSAs had visited the property but never received a tour. I had never visited the property, but I had heard amazing things about the landscape. Boy, were we not disappointed!
We were greeted by 3 National Park Service employees who gave an overview of three sections of the park. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a sculptor in the 1800’s, and this property helps to preserve his home, studio, and his sculptures. We learned about the background of the Abraham Lincoln statue, the first public monument that Saint-Gaudens completed in Cornish. We also learned about the Robert Gould Shaw & Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, as a prominent Civil War commemoration. It took him 14 years to complete this memorial for the Boston Commons. Our third aspect of the tour included the New Gallery & Atrium, where a variety of Saint-Gaudens work is on display. We also passed by the Adams Memorial, a funereal memorial to commemorate Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams.
In addition to an overview of Saint-Gaudens and his work, we admired the beautifully kept gardens and grand house. We stopped by his studio on our way back to our cars, overlooking an expansive field with mountains in the background.
Our next stop included the Blow-Me-Down Farm property, not far down the street. The land was a focal point for the Cornish Colony, and it served as the Beaman family’s rural retreat for 70 years. In 2010, 42.6 acres of the original estate were transferred to the National Park Service, and part of the property is leased to Opera North. Evans Haile, General Director of Opera North, and Maria Laskaris, Development Director of Opera North, greeted us at the farm. They gave us an overview of the many events they offer at the property, in a big-top tent. The view of Mt. Ascutney and the Connecticut River, with a backdrop of a field of corn, fully completes the picturesque event location.
By this point in the day, it was time for a lunch break! We headed over to McNamara Dairy to sit in the yard with our lunches. Several GSAs ordered sandwiches or salad from the Plainfield Country Store. We chatted with each other, catching up with GSAs we had not seen in a while. Our host, Liz McNamara, provided information about the history of her family farm and all that they have to offer. Her grandparents purchased the farm in 1950. The farm now boasts 4 generations of McNamara family. She explained their diversification over time, from cows, to horses, back to cows, and now their maple store…perhaps even a field of sunflowers in the future!
Liz took us on a tour of the property to the cow barn and the calf area. Then we headed over to the maple syrup production area, the Mac’s Maple part of their farm. This includes a beautiful store that offers primarily local products. But one of the highlights of the tour was the absolutely delectable maple creamees! The staff even topped the ice cream with maple candy, which is a brilliant addition to an already tasty treat. The ice cream was the perfect touch for what had turned into a humid day. I will definitely be returning for another one!
Our last stop of the day was a trip over to Garfield’s Smokehouse in Meriden. Liz Taylor, owner, greeted us and gave a brief presentation on their smoking process and what ingredients they used. She set up a table of cheese for us to try, from dill, to smoked cheddar, and smoked pepperoni. The shop had a variety of local products for sale, including Taylor’s maple products.
That was a wrap on our Upper Valley Agriculture Tour Day! Our GSAs were truly impressed by each business/organization. Many mentioned that they can’t wait to return, and they can’t wait to recommend these places to visitors to NH. A day well spent!
View more pictures here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/4NTy6xB3GjKonfuD7