“Sustaining Culture: A Regional Conversation”
was the topic for the historic Mid Atlantic
Arts Foundation Folklorists Retreat
in Saratoga Springs, May 22–25, 2012, in
partnership with Folklorists in New England,
the Folk Arts Program of New York
State Council on the Arts, and the New
York Folklore Society. Participants hailed
from as far away as Washington, DC, up to
northern New York State and east through
the New England states.
Lunch (with regionally sourcced ingredients) at the Quebeçois Bread Oven. All photos are by Todd DeGarmo.
On Thursday, May 24, nearly 70 meeting
attendees traveled out of Saratoga Springs,
across the Hudson River to rural Washington
County and to Hubbard Hall Projects,
Inc., and the Cambridge Freight Yard in
Cambridge, NY, where the focus shifted
to “Local Sustainability in the Battenkill Valley,” beginning with a panel chaired
by Todd DeGarmo, founding director of
Crandall Public Library’s Folklife Center.
First to speak was Benji White, executive
director of Hubbard Hall Projects, Inc.,
who provided a history of the Hall, built in
1878, and the only remaining opera house
in Washington County and an overview
of its current programs, projects, and
partnerships as a community arts center.
Next, Christine Hoffer, tourism administrator
for Washington County Tourism
and proprietor of the Historic Rice Mansion
Inn (built in 1903 for seed tycoon
Jerome B. Rice), spoke of the efforts to
provide authentic activities for visitors that
build upon the region’s many historical,
natural, and cultural assets.
Tour of the revitalized Cambridge Freight Yard.
Sarah Ashton, founding board president
of Cambridge Freight Yard Revitalization
Project, spoke of this community initiative
to revitalize the historic commercial heart
of the village of Cambridge, facilitating
business activity and expanding cultural
and recreational assets.
Meg Southerland addressed the challenges
of sustaining local agriculture as
the owner of Gardenworks at MacClan
Farms, a multi-generational U-pick blueberry
and raspberry farm with specialty
vegetable crops, seasonal evergreens, and
a large selection of local artisan works in
the retail barn.
Finally, Annette Nielsen, food writer,
community leader, and sustainable farm
advocate, told the group of the many layers
of community involvement that has
made the Salem Courthouse Community
Garden successful [see her article in this
issue, “Growing Community in the Courthouse
Folklorists visit 3-Corners Farm during “The Bounty of Washington County” tour.
Lunch brought the group outside to the
Freight Yard and in close contact with the
Quebeçois Bread Oven where local caterer,
Sue Quillio with Spoonful Catering,
prepared pizza using regionally sourced
flours and local dairy, meats, and seasonal
vegetables. The bread oven was built in
2008 as part of the 400th anniversary of
the founding of Quebec City. The project
came together through the work of De-
Garmo and Winnie Lambrecht, formerly
working in folk arts at the Rhode Island
State Council of the Arts.
Lambrecht found artisan Jean Laberge
from Montreal who was willing to build
the community oven with help from community
volunteers, and now the oven is
used for a number of local events. While
Lambrecht helped out on this project, her
appreciation for the area and the cultural
diversity that existed inspired her to advocate
for the meeting’s programs and for the
group to gather in Cambridge and the Battenkill
Valley for the folklorist conference.
Folklorists sample locally made cheese at 3-Corners Farm.
After lunch, attendees had the opportunity
to participate in one of four
tours showcasing one of the region’s
highlights: Battenkill Valley Outdoors
“Paddle and Covered Bridges;” “The
Bounty of Washington County” (a tour
of a few farms showcasing the region’s
stellar agrarian pursuits); “Arts Abound in
Washington County” (an artist studio tour
where many of the artists get inspiration
from the bucolic hillsides); and “Walk on
the Wild Side of Washington County” (a
walk through the Battenkill State Forest).
Though some got a dunking in the Batten
Kill, and others got lost, all made it back
to Saratoga Springs that evening for the
rest of the conference.
Todd DeGarmo is the founding director of
the The Folklife Center at Crandall Public
Library in Glens Falls, NY, serving four
upstate counties in the upper Hudson
Valley and southern Adirondacks. He
lives in the Battenkill Valley, a stone’s
throw from the Batten Kill in Washington
County, near the Vermont border.
Preparing lunch with regionally sourced ingredients.
Guest speaker Meg Southerland of Gardenworks at MacClan Farms.
This article appeared in Voices Vol. 38, Spring-Summer 2012. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.
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