Local, Wellesley Island Grown, Certified Organic

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The Thousand Islands Bridge leads to Wellesley Island.  Click to enlarge.

The Thousand Islands Bridge leads to Wellesley Island and is visible from most places on the farm.  Not many islands have their own bridge!  Click the picture for a larger view

Dani with one of her nature photographs.  Click to enlarge.

Dani poses with one of her nature photos.  Click the picture to enlarge.

David reads to ACS 2nd graders.  Click to enlarge.

David reads to 2nd graders at Alexandria Central School during "Ag Literacy Day 2008."  Click for a larger picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poco rests on a hot day.  Click for a larger picture.

Poco rests on a hot day.  Click for a larger picture.

Gemini frogging, click to enlarge.

Gemini hunting for frogs.  Click for a larger picture.

 

 

 

 

 

Splash Gordon shakes dry.  Click to enlarge.

Splash shakes after playing in the water.  He really earns his name!  Click for a larger picture.

Panda sitting in the window.  Click to enlarge.

Panda loves to sit in the window.  Click her picture for a larger view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An abandoned beaver pond.  Click for a larger view.

An abandoned beaver pond in the back field.  Click for a larger view.

 

 

 

 

The sugarbush in winter.  Click to enlarge.

The sugarbush covered in snow, waiting for sugar season to start.  Click the picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A late day view out our bedroom window.  Click to enlarge.

Sunset approaches in this winter view out our back window.  Click the picture to enlarge.

About Us


 

How It Started:

Cross Island Farms was started in 2005 by Dani Baker and David Belding.  After purchasing the 102 acre farmstead from the estate of Claude Harden, Dani and David became intrigued by the idea of making the land productive again, while being good stewards of the land and water resources entrusted to them.  They initially contacted the Department of  Environmental Conservation to learn about protecting the Class II wetlands on the property.  Next they had a DEC Senior Forester tour the property and develop a Forest Stewardship Management Plan for the forested areas.  Then a hive of honeybees moved into the wall of a farm outbuilding.  Our friend David Martin convinced David Belding to capture the bees and raise them for honey.  We didn't realize it at the time, but this was our first livestock!  Before we talk about what happened next, lets meet Dani and David.  Top Of Page

Dani Baker grew up spending summers in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State.  She also tended the family garden, developing a love for the soil and a love for the beauty of nature.  Dani believes in the importance of eating wholesome natural foods with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Spare time is spent hiking, cross country skiing, or in the seat of one of her many kayaks and canoes, interspersing aerobic paddling with nature photography.  Dani retired from her psychologist position at the NYS Department of Corrections in 2007 to devote full time to the farm.  Top Of Page

David Belding grew up in northeast Ohio, near the birthplace of the Mother Earth News, and read it cover to cover from the first edition.  His Aunt Maudy introduced him to the joys of vegetable gardening while he was still in elementary school.  David’s dream was always to own an organic farm.  In high school he did research papers on methane generators and geodesic domes, among other interests.  David also owns an industrial services business call CNC Services and wishes he did not have to leave the farm.  Top Of Page

Our First Season:  In the fall of 2005 Dani discovered a course at Cornell Cooperative Extension called “Building Your Small Farm Dream” and suggested that she and David take the class to get some ideas for making the farm productive again.  Here’s what happened next, according to David.

  “Dani worked full time plus for the state and I have a full time business off the farm.  When we started the class we thought that maybe we would plant a few cold hardy grape vines.  Since taking the class (and still doing our full time gigs) we have done the following on our farm: made maple syrup for the first time (11 1/2 gallons) and sold it, planted 140 Christmas trees, had our first honey harvest from our bees and sold the honey, planted, grew, and sold 3500 square feet of vegetables, planted 36 cold hardy grapevines of 11 varieties, opened and operated our road side produce stand, planted raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus, cherries, and apricots for future years'  harvest, and picked and sold pears and apples from trees already on our property.  Oh, and we also got certified organic on August 1st.  We also purchased supplies to start some Shiitake mushroom logs, but amazingly we have not yet found the time to get those started!  We also made piles of compost and prepared a new field for expansion in 2007.  Our contact with Cornell Cooperative Extension has led us to attend numerous training sessions on production and marketing for most of the crops listed above and many others as well."  Top Of Page

The Dogs:  

Poco is the matriarch of our dog pack.  An Australian Shepard mix, she came to us from the dog pound.  Poco loves to swim, sail and canoe (for all of five minutes), play with her siblings, skijore, herd motorcycles (Harleys are her favorite), and generally enjoy life.  Poco is getting up in years and is losing her hearing and sight, but not her joie de vivre.  She loves being on the farm, because she can go in and out at will, and she is always on the wrong side of the door (so she thinks!)  Top Of Page

 Gemini came to us from a broken home.  Her parents divorced, mom got custody, and her new apartment didn't allow dogs.  Gemini is husky, chow, and German Shepard.  Gemini is our "procurer."  She always knows where there is a supply of deer bones, duck eggs, and other delectable goodies.  Gemini perks up when the coyotes sing at night; she thinks they are her pack mates calling her home.  Gemini loves to hunt for frogs, chase the pigs, and sometimes skijore and dogsled.  Top Of Page 

Snowtoes came to us from the county dog shelter.  His lineage is uncertain, but we think he is a Belgian sheepdog mix.  Snowtoes loves to have his belly rubbed.  He loves to chase squirrels and hunt for muskrats.  Snowtoes was our lead dog on the skijore and sled team until a back injury ruined his sports career.  Snowtoes loves to cuddle by laying on top of you.  This wouldn't be a problem, except he weighs about 65 pounds.  Top Of Page

Splash Gordon, known as Splash for short, is the newest member of our dog pack.  We adopted Splash from a family on Fort Drum after a new baby made him just too much to handle.  Splash is a bundle of energy, and very affectionate.  As his name suggests, Splash loves anything to do with water, especially swimming and splashing.  Splash is genuinely fascinated with the pigs; he never misses a chance to go visit them.  Splash is our new lead dog on the skijore and dogsled team.  He can't wait to start pulling.  When Splash is in harness while we are getting ready to start our run, he gets so excited he jumps straight up in the air.  Top Of Page

The Kitties:

Panda is old enough to have voted for Barack Obama; she turned 18 last July!  She came to David in June of 1990, tucked inside her mama's belly.  Panda is the official farm office cat.  She doesn't like to go downstairs, but if you present a lap upstairs in the farmhouse, Panda will be on it!.  Top Of Page

Gracie is our newest cat.  She is an inside/outside cat and is charged with rodent control.  Gracie is very sociable and loves her four canine brothers and sisters.  Gracie wants to make friends with Panda, but Panda is not sure of this new whippersnapper.   Top Of Page
 

The Property:  The property consists of 102 acres on both sides of Cross Island Road on Wellesley Island, in the Thousands Islands Region of the Saint Lawrence River in Northern NY.  Included on this property are extensive wetlands with beaver ponds, forested areas with hardwood and softwood trees, fields both open and brushy, rocky ridges featuring the classic Wellesley Island pink granite, and the farmstead which includes the farmhouse, garage, farmstand, and other farm structures.  Top Of Page

The Wetlands  consist of numerous beaver ponds on both sides of the road.  Some are currently active and others are presently abandoned.  The status of the ponds changes on a regular basis, as the existing beavers eat all of the available trees and brush and move on, and later other beavers (or perhaps the same beavers) move in to an area where some brush has regrown or where they can access trees and brush on the neighbor's property.  About thirty acres of this wetlands is NYS DEC Class II, which is the second highest protection status in New York.  We actively work with the DEC, NRCS, and Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District to manage our farm in a manner that preserves and enhances the natural values of these wetlands.  Top Of Page

The Woods consist of a variety of mixed hardwood and softwood forest areas.  Typical species include red maple, sugar maple, hop-hornbeam (ironwood), birch, ash, cedar, white pine, elm, apple, pear, cherry, grey dogwood, poplar, beech, and many others.  There are quite a number of old red and white oak trees that probably date back to the eighteen hundreds.  Certainly two people cannot clasp their arms together around the trunks.  These oaks are mostly open grown, with large limbs right to the ground.  This means that they were most likely left for shade for the cattle when the island was clear-cut in the 1800's.

We manage our forests on a sustainable basis according to the Forest Stewardship Management Plan, which was prepared by our DEC Master Forester, Glen Roberts.  Our goals include improving the forest for wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities including hiking, skiing, and nature photography, maple syrup production, firewood production, fence post and other farm wood product production, and timber stand improvement.  We choose trees to be removed with an eye to the long-term improvement of the forest, and try to do most logging in the winter, when it is least intrusive and damaging to the remaining trees and other plant life.  Top Of Page

The Fields consist primarily of overgrown pastures and hayfields.  As near as we can tell, the last livestock (before we came here) left the farm in the 1960's or before.  There is a huge amount of grey dogwood brush on the property.  We suspect it is there to such a large degree only because it is very low on the preferred diets of deer and beavers.  We are working on selectively reclaiming fields for garden, pasture, and other crops.  In so doing we leave buffer areas to protect the adjoining wetlands and also to provide continued wildlife habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures.  This is sometimes referred to as Farmscaping.  It benefits the farm, as a diverse ecosystem is a natural protection against major pest infestations.  We also really enjoy watching all of the natural wildlife.  Top Of Page

The Rocky Ridges-- Our farm is surrounded to the northwest by rocky  ridges that define the property boundary with our neighbors, the Huntleys.  Across the road there are two additional rocky ridges entirely on our property.  Although this part of northern NY is known to be pretty flat, there is over eighty feet elevation difference between the swamp floor and the ridge tops.  The native rock includes various quartz and granite, including the native Wellesley Island pink granite, which is quite beautiful.  The two ridges run parallel and then join at their north east ends to create a sort of box canyon effect, along with some interesting micro-climates.  Top Of Page

The Farmhouse was started in the 1830's, and its not done yet!  The main house is constructed of double layers of two inch thick planks, run vertically.  They were probably cut from the old growth forest when the island was clear cut in the early 1800's.  The main basement and the well are constructed from fieldstone.  When you take the cap off the 27' deep dug well and look inside, you feel like you should throw in a quarter and make a wish.  The farmstead sits on a two acre rise, surrounded on three sides by a horseshoe-shaped moat of cattail-filled wetlands.  Although we are surrounded by wetlands, we rarely notice problems with mosquitoes, as there is almost always a pleasant breeze.  The old settlers certainly understood the importance of site selection.  In the summertime we love to sit in the shade of the sugar maple trees and enjoy the cool breezes.  Top Of Page

Our Vision is to build an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable farm, diversified in plant and animal life, that provides us with a reasonable living, our community with healthy, wholesome food, the environment with a good neighbor, and provides educational opportunities for as many people as possible about how to produce organic, sustainable, local, healthy food.  We also want to be able to have this vision and this farm continue long after we are gone.  Top Of Page



 

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David and Dani at the farm stand.  Click for larger picture.

David & Dani at the farm stand.  Click picture for a larger image.

 

David, Snowtoes, and Gemini watch a hot air balloon.  Click to enlarge.

David, Snowtoes, and Gemini watch a hot air balloon float over the farm.  Click to enlarge.

 

Dani picks lettuce for TI School, click to enlarge

Dani picking lettuce for Farm-to-School.  Click the picture to enlarge.

David plants the vineyard with Bob.  Click to enlarge.

David plants the vineyard with Bob.  Click the picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Splash, Snowtoes, Gemini, and Poco dogsledding.  Click to enlarge.

The sled dog team: Splash leads front and center, followed by Snowtoes on the right, Gemini on the left, and Poco brings up the rear.  Click the picture for a larger view.

Gemini eating sweet corn.  Click for a larger view.

Gemini picks and eats her own ear of sweet corn.  Click the photo for a larger view.

Snowtoes smiling.  Click for a larger picture.

Snowtoes smiling, as usual.  Click picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gracie lounges by the woodstove.  Click to enlarge.

Gracie loves to lounge near the woodstove.  Click the picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

Another beaver pond.  Click to enlarge.

Another beaver pond.  Click to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

The autumn sunrise lights the woods.  Click to enlarge.

Above the autumn morning mist, the sun lights the wooded ridge.  Click the photo to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The farmhouse in early October.  Click for a larger picture.

Our farmhouse in early October.  Note the delicious shade of the sugar maple tree.  Click for a larger view.

 

 

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