by Sandra Hutchinson
Last Sunday, we headed out to Gardenworks Farm, in Salem, NY, to visit with our good friends and the farm’s owners, Meg and Rob Southerland, and to select our Christmas tree. It was just like old times, piling into the car with our two sons, worried about whether our younger son would feel car sick on the drive over hill and dale to get to the farm. Surprise — our “boys” are now in their mid-twenties, having returned home during the pandemic to work from our home, yet both were enthusiastic about accompanying my husband and me on our tree venture — and no one got car sick! Indeed, I had hoped to go to the farm a few days earlier, but my sons complained that their work schedules didn’t allow them to go then, and how could I even consider not including them in such a classic family tradition?
Besides offering freshly cut Fraser and Balsam fir trees, grown right on the farm, Gardenworks has beautifully crafted wreaths, swags, kissing balls and centerpieces. This year, I brought my tartan ribbons and bows that had adorned last year’s creations, and Meg spiffed them up and attached them to my new selections.
Meg is a master at making all manner of wreaths, centerpieces and botanical creations. When she’s not using fir and cedar, she’s using dried and fresh flowers and other plant materials. She has taught workshops for years at the farm and elsewhere. She trained in horticulture at Cornell and the University of Delaware, and has decades of experience in growing and cultivating flowers, plants and botanicals. She’s even worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens, in Kew, London.
I could wax rhapsodic about all the offerings this time of year, beyond the Christmas trees, wreaths and swags at the farm — from the wide selection of cheeses, many from upstate New York and Vermont, curated by cheese connoisseur Rob, to hand-crafted artwork, jewelry and gifts, to the selection of jams made for Gardenworks with the farm’s label. There’s a nice range of Stonewall Kitchen products, local maple sugar products (especially from Mapleland Farms), Oscar’s smoked meats and cheeses (from Warrensburg, NY), local eggs, the hard-to-find French “toasts” for cheese, and my favorite — Grandma Miller’s lemon pound cakes from South Londonderry, Vermont. (These are my go-to easy dessert; I top the cake with macerated fruit, and add a dollop of whipped cream. Perfect for Fourth of July, with strawberries and blueberries— red, white and blue!) Yum.
Meg and Rob have a wide selection of unusual jewelry, scarves, woven items like wool fingerless gloves from Nepal and the purposely mismatched, made-in-North Carolina Solmate socks, made-in-Massachusetts Mole Hollow Candles, and a huge range of items for seasonal decorations.
Luckily, our time at Gardenworks last weekend coincided with a visit from Santa! Santa was cheerful, even though he had to stay behind a large plexiglass window to safely meet with children and families. Santa visits were done following state COVID-19 protocols, and his helpers made sure to enforce the rules. Professional photographer Tara Henry was taking photos of children with Santa, and a portion of the proceeds was donated to a local program benefitting children.
Santa’s not wearing a mask because he’s behind the plexiglass window. Mrs. Claus was also in the barn, busy rocking and doing puzzles, ready to read to children!
Meg helping a customer select a tree.
Before you go to Gardenworks, make sure to check the farm’s website for hours of operation. Click gardenworksfarm.com. If you visit Gardenworks, consider dropping into the nearby headquarters of Battenkill Valley Creamery, (operated by Meg’s cousin Seth McEachron), where you can get local milk and ice cream, including the to-die-for Battenkill chocolate milk (like liquid chocolate ice cream, as we like to say.) Here’s the website: battenkillcreamery.com.
Here’s a gorgeous, Gardenworks Farm-grown Fraser fir Christmas tree, in all its ornamented glory: