Reviving Zenda Farms!

By: Rebecca Dahl

Volume 14, Issue 7, July 2019

Birds chirping, tree frogs singing, children laughing. Once the days grow long and the River thaws through, these are the songs that bring the rolling hills at Zenda Farms Preserve to life. A state-of-the-art dairy farm back in the late 1930s, this land beckons for activity from creatures both big and small.  During Zenda’s years as an active farm this land was home to grazing Golden Guernsey cattle, a dozen gardens, and countless local Clayton residents. For many, Zenda Farms invokes memories of a pastoral paradise, one tucked away along the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Zenda Farms building, Clayton, NY. [Photo courtesy TILT]

Today, the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) is reviving Zenda Farms by reintroducing responsible agriculture and providing community-centric activities, while educating about environmental sustainability and connecting people with this very special place.

Cheese aging in the cooler inside of the Creamery at Zenda, [Photo courtesy TILT]

Working in tandem with local agricultural producers, TILT is seeking innovative ways to bolster this vision for Zenda and our local farmers. Kicking off this effort, partnerships with Homestead Heritage Cheese of LaFargeville, NY and Coyote Moon Vineyards of Clayton, NY are in full swing, producing a Zenda Farms® Organic Cheese and a Zenda Farms® Red Wine, respectively.

The rows of grapevines after they were planted in 2018 for Coyote Moon Vineyards, on Zenda Farms. [Photo courtesy TILT] 

Each product is rooted in Zenda’s mission—being produced in a sustainable and climate-smart manner, while connecting a piece of the process to this historic farm and its spectacular silver barns. In addition to bringing in new activity and potential learning opportunities, a portion of the sales from each of these items goes back into directly supporting the programming and conservation efforts at Zenda Farms.

Annually, TILT provides opportunities like the Community Garden, the annual Arbor Day Tree Planting, the annual Community Picnic and numerous TILTreks at Zenda Farms, providing free and affordable recreational activities for people of all ages. With Zenda’s renewed vision, goals are in place to continue to reinvigorate this space in order to benefit local producers and provide more programming for the public.  TILT is actively working on a planning process to renovate the largest barn at Zenda, the Dairy Barn, for public access through a grant from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In celebration of Zenda Farms’ progress and goals, internationally-renowned Steinway artist Ann Sweeten is playing a benefit concert titled Across the Midnight Sky on Saturday, August 3rd at the Clayton Opera House.

As a supporter and neighbor of Zenda Farms, Ms. Sweeten is donating her time, skills, and artistry to support the ongoing development, efforts, and ‘nature-songs’ heard at the Preserve. Additionally, thanks to a grant from the NNY Community Foundation all proceeds from the concert will be matched up to $5,000!  

This is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on Zenda Farms by making contributions go twice as far. All proceeds will benefit Zenda Farms Preserve and the Zenda Farms Preserve Fund held at the NNY Community Foundation. Zenda has inspired and continues to shape valuable partnerships in the community, all of which will come together in celebration on this evening.

If you wish to learn more about Zenda Farms Preserve and how to support TILT’s ongoing efforts, please visit: https://tilandtrust.org/explore/preserves-trails/zenda-farms-preserve or email Zenda Farms Program Director, Rebecca Dahl at rdahl@tilandtrust.org with questions.

By Rebecca Dahl, Thousand Islands Land Trust

Rebecca  Dahl is a transplant to the Thousand Islands region and the Zenda Farms  Program Director for the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) in  Clayton.  Since 2015, she has been managing the projects and programming  at TILT's Zenda Farms Preserve to breathe new life into this historic  dairy farm.
She is a New Jersey native and a graduate of the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor's in Animal Science. Previously  she has worked at farms, zoos and nature centers in New Jersey,  Connecticut and Texas.  Her passion for nature and sustainable  agriculture brought her to Clayton where her affinity for the River  grows by the day.

Posted in: Volume 14, Issue 7, July 2019, Architecture, People, Places



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