Get Back to the Farm in Columbia County

1. Where to Stay

The FarmStay at Kinderhook Farm features a wall of screens that look out at grazing livestock.Photo: Courtesy of the the FarmStay at Kinderhook Farm

Find a surprising level of comfort inside a barn at the FarmStay at Kinderhook Farm (from $285, two-night minimum), opening for its inaugural season on May 21 in Ghent. The 1,100-square-foot renovated building sleeps up to four adults and two children and is outfitted with antiques from Keystone and Colonia as well as a complimentary, fully stocked kitchen, where you can whip up something with vegetables and herbs from the outdoor garden and freshly laid eggs from chickens clucking outside the front door.

Soak in an oversize claw-foot tub in the Herb-Cabinet Room (from $120) at the Chatham Bed and Breakfast, a few minutes away from the bookstores and cafés of Hudson Avenue. Set on the second floor of a four-room house built in 1898, the room is the inn’s most spacious, with an elegant four-post bed and windows overlooking a big front yard. Browse chef-owner Chris Sisinni’s collection of cookbooks in the large, light-filled kitchen while he prepares pear-ginger waffles or local bacon and eggs.

Sip tea in your very own sitting room in the Library Suite (from $150) at Union Street Guest House, a boutique hotel in Hudson that offers a more urban setting than Chatham or Ghent, with access to shops, antique dealers, and art galleries a block away on Warren Street. The hotel’s cozy, lived-in atmosphere extends to the one-bedroom suite, which features antique books and lamps and décor inspired by nineteenth-century Swedish painter Carl Larsson.

2. Where to Eat

Local 111's dishes feature rigorously sourced ingredients from nearby farms.Photo: Courtesy of Local 111

Feast on seasonal fare sourced almost entirely from area farms at Local 111 (dinner served Wed.–Sun., brunch served Sun.), a comfortable 39-seat space housed in a converted garage in the former mill town of Philmont. Chef Josephine Proul developed her ingredient-driven approach in her native California; here, she candies vegetables, makes her own sausages, and churns out comforting dishes like pork porterhouse with roasted warm apple and kielbasa ($26).

Get all the vegetables you need at Vico in Hudson, where whatever’s in season gets sautéed and served on platters alongside fresh papardelle ($16) and Tuscan-style steaks ($24). Come early for $2 off cocktails and beers from 5 to 7 p.m. and take your drink to the outdoor garden, where pots of basil and rosemary scent the air.

Try a fresher take on classic American comfort foods at Blue Plate , a Chatham restaurant inside a charming four-story house where burgers ($10) and meatloaf ($13) are made with meat from Schober Farm and produce from Little Seed Gardens. You can drink local as well, with Chatham Brew ($3) on tap and bottles from Hudson Chatham Winery also available.

3. What to Do

Sheep and chicken freely roam about the property at Kinderhook Farm. Photo: Courtesy of Kinderhook Farm

Get your hands dirty at Kinderhook Farm, where visitors can pitch in with chores like gathering eggs, processing slaughtered chickens, and feeding sheep. If you prefer to keep clean, you can buy amazingly tender, grass-fed beef, lamb, and chicken in the farm store or explore the wooded trails and cool off in a swimming hole. The farm is open daily to visitors, but call ahead to schedule a free half-hour guided tour of the property to see the animals up close and learn about the farm’s sustainable breeding and agricultural practices.

Learn about biodynamic farming and taste organic foods at Hawthorne Valley Farm, a 400-acre property whose thriving Farm and Arts program draws students and visitors from across the country for farm-to-table cooking classes and full-day tours. Guests can also wander about freely to pick arugula leaves from the greenhouse, pet angora sheep, visit the monkish bread bakers, or trek down to the cheese cellar to get a whiff of aged Havarti. The beautifully designed store, made from salvaged materials, is where to purchase jars of the farm’s award-winning sauerkraut ($5) and bottles of raw milk ($2.75 for a quart).

Taste deliciously creamy cheeses at Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, a blissfully quiet place despite being the largest sheep dairy farm in the country. Pack a baguette to eat with buttery Hudson Valley Camembert ($6) or nutty Roquefort-style Ewe’s Blue ($10) from the farm’s self-serve store before settling in at a picnic table beside the Kinderhook Creek. The cheese-making facilities are closed to the public, but you can explore farm roads winding around the property and visit tiny lambs in the greenhouse.

4. Insider’s Tip

Bash Bish Falls is a sight worth leaving Columbia County to visit.Photo: Flickr/Pablosanchez

Columbia County has no shortage of trail-laden state parks, but take a detour across the Massachusetts state line for a memorable hiking experience that’s off the beaten path. Located in the southwest corner of the Berkshires, a 40-minute drive from Chatham, Bash Bish Falls sits in a lush state park that’s lined with hemlock and red spruce trees. The 60-foot waterfall is the highest of its kind in the state, and it outshines the area’s other scenic vistas. The trail is easy to tackle, but ambitious hikers have the alternative of taking the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, which extends for five miles through Columbia County, and then taking a one-mile detour to reach the waterfall.

5. Oddball Day

Banjo Mountain Café (left) is a cozy breakfast spot; Harvest Spirits (right) distills vodka, bourbon, and brandy from apples.Photo: Courtesy of Banjo Mountain Café; courtesy of Harvest Spirits

Prepare for a day of drinking locally produced wine, beer, and spirits with brunch at Banjo Mountain Café, a cozy spot that opened last September in Ghent and is decorated with work by local artists. Next, drive a few minutes south on Rte. 21C to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store to stock up on organic fruit, beverages, and snacks for the car. Then begin conquering the Columbia County portion of the Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail, a boozy pathway that winds from southeast Albany to Hudson. Start off at Harvest Spirits to tour the distillery and taste Core Vodka, made with apples from neighboring Golden Harvest Farms. Next, drive about seven miles west on Rte. 203 to Chatham Brewing Companyand sample the rotating selection of crisp seasonal ales, rich porter, and the slightly sweet Maple Amber. Brewery tours and growler sales are offered on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. only, so plan accordingly. Head five miles away on Rte. 66 to the bucolic Hudson Chatham Winery to swill small-batch reds and whites made with a mix of grapes from Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, and Long Island. When it’s time for dinner, head eight miles south to Philmont’s Main Street Public House, built in 1898, where you’ll rub elbows with blue-collar locals, artists, and the occasional live band. Co-owner Elizabeth Angello serves a rotating menu of craft beers and sources local ingredients to dress up humble dishes like the smoked chicken burrito ($11) and the lamb burger ($14).

6. Links

Along with providing local history and a comprehensive block-by-block guide to Hudson, the Hudson Antiques Dealers Association maintains a blog (and mobile app) of gallery openings, local celebrity sightings, and notable antiques on sale.

A Hudson restaurant owner started Columbia County Bounty to simplify finding fresh local food at farms, markets, restaurants, and roadside stands.

On CoCoToDo, local resident Christy Collins lists daily and weekly happenings, like wine tastings and film screenings, throughout Columbia County.

The writers at Rural Intelligence chronicle news, culture, and regional travel opportunities in four counties: Columbia, Berkshire, Northern Dutchess, and northern Litchfield.

Get Back to the Farm in Columbia County