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Fledging Crow and Friends: Flying High

Fledging Crow Vegetables, in Keeseville. Photograph by Shaun Ondak

Four years ago, notebook in hand and my months-old baby sleeping in a sling across my chest, I followed Ian Ater and Lucas Christianson around Fledging Crow, their Keeseville vegetable farm. I was reporting a story about the guys and their farm for Adirondack Life magazine. By that spring morning they’d already been working their land two years, transforming the landscape into tidy stripes of food, adding a couple of teensy dwellings after first living in a tent tucked along the hedgerow.

Through their CSA—crates picked up by paying members, stuffed with each week’s harvest—they were feeding 60 families. Local eateries were starting to carry their produce. In the works was a documentary by Ben Stechschulte about Fledging and two other Champlain Valley farms. Things were happening. Fast. But that was no surprise: Ian and Lucas were, as they are today, all-hours-of-the-day driven, charismatic and infectiously passionate about what they do.

Now they feed more than 300 families through their CSA. More restaurants and markets carry their food. Their farm has rapidly expanded with additional fields, new greenhouses and living spaces and a bigger crew. The outskirts of Keeseville, too, has transformed since my first visit: off Route 9 on Robare and Mace Chasm Roads you can get your vegetables at Fledging, but you can also get meat and eggs at Mace Chasm Farm; milk, yogurt and cheese at North Country Creamery at Clover Mead Farm; and craft beer at Ausable Brewing Company.

Recently other farms have risen in other pockets across the Adirondack Park. Fledging didn’t start the wave—a couple of other small farms launched by young farmers were already shaping their pastures and identities. Still, Ian and Lucas are a critical part of a movement, whether consciously or not: Naturally-grown food benefits our bodies (the baby girl who accompanied me on that first trip to Fledging has been raised and is thriving on all that springs from the ground at that farm). Growing local creates communities; buying local strengthens our communities and it’s kinder to the environment. And farmers, not unlike the ones centuries ago, who are willing to cultivate this parkland with its challenging soil and precarious weather, are some of the most devoted stewards of the Adirondacks. Too often we just think up, that our peaks are this place’s most treasured assets.

As debate continues about the future of this complicated park—how to boost population, revive the economy and work together across a vast spread of protected land—Adirondackers like Ian and Lucas are an example of what works. If you ask, they’ll tell you about what they’re doing and why, but, as Lucas told me that long-ago spring morning, they’d rather get back to the dirt and let “our beets do the talking.”

 

 

 

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