There are pluses and minuses to farming in a popular summer vacation destination. The George Family is in its third generation running a dairy farm a few hundred yards from Cayuga Lake in the Fingers Lakes region of New York. Not only do the lakes and beautiful rolling hills draw visitors, but so do nearby Cornell University and the well-regarded local wine trail.Farming in the beautiful Finger Lakes has its ups and downs. #FarmLove #CabotFarmers Click To Tweet
The downside is that farmers don’t often get off the farm, especially during the summer. “The lake is very busy right now, but we never get out there,” says Cindy George, whose husband, John, farms with their son John B. George III, known as Johnny. “We’re too busy making hay.”
Luckily, the Georges love what they do and one of the reasons they have farmed successfully in Interlaken for 60 years is the same reason that the Finger Lakes have become known for their wine grapes: the microclimate created by the lakes softens the extreme cold in winter and brings warm breezes in the summer. “The fruit grows so well here because of the lakes and their warming effect,” explains Cindy. “That’s also really helpful for our crops.”
Being so close to the lake is also a big environmental responsibility, says Cindy. The family has invested significant time and money in working closely with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure they are safeguarding the ecosystem. “We are always in touch with conservation principles and feel a responsibility for the land,” says Johnny. “I hope to pass the farm on to my kids someday as well.”
There was no guarantee that one of Cindy and John’s three children would take over, but it was clear, his mom says, that Johnny was interested from a young age. “When he was 7 or 8 years old, we had a tour group from Japan and his dad was not around. Johnny just took over, showing the guests around. He had the mind for it,” Cindy recalls. “Really as a parent all you care about is that your kids are happy. And he seems happy.”
In addition to caring for her eight horses including several rescues, Cindy does the bookkeeping and Johnny’s wife, Jill, also works on the farm. Johnny’s sister, Jane, lives nearby and his other sister, Katherine, lives in Pennsylvania, but returns to visit when she can. With three grandchildren so far, the Georges do make time for family barbecues and lobster bakes in the summer. “We enjoy family,” Cindy says. “Our family is very close. When you work together, you get close.”
Jill and Johnny George are raising beef for sale and farm-fresh burgers on the grill are a family staple. One of Cindy’s favorite ways to take her burgers to the next level is to mix the ground beef with minced garlic and finely diced raw bacon – always topped with a slice of Cabot cheddar, no surprise. Here are a variety of burger recipes to try out this summer.
To learn more about the beautiful Finger Lakes region and its wineries, go to Fingerlakes.org or click here.
Pairing Wine and Cheese
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming, and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).