Sean Zigmund and Cheyenne Miller are already deep into the 2013 spring and summer growing season, rising at dawn and working till dusk and still never quite finishing all that needs to be done. But offered the choice, they wouldn’t want to have any other job.
On a beautiful spring Sunday, I visited their farm, Root n’ Roost Farm (www.rootnroost.com ) in White Sulphur Springs, NY. While Sean was busy working, Cheyenne kindly gave me a tour of their two-and-a-half-acre farm, complete with chickens, pigs, veggies and more.
The couple offers tours of their farm every weekend, along with a farm stand, but this summer, they will join a larger network of farms that offer tours as part of Farmstock, a Sullivan-County-born idea to bring the public to the farms, that is being held throughout the summer. Cheyenne said it’s a great way to educate people about farming. “Hands-on exposure to how food is produced plays a huge role in motivating people to buy their food from local farms and support our local economy,” she said.
Both Cheyenne and Amy Erlwein, an organizer of Farmstock who owns Erlwein Farms in Jeffersonville, said that kids love the farm tours. Cheyenne added that kids will come to the farm and see “where bacon comes from and collect their own eggs for breakfast.” As we stood by the pig pens, the chickens roamed around and pecked at my legs, something I’ve never experienced and that is, quite frankly, scary. Cheyenne assuaged my fears and picked up one of the chickens, cradling it in her arms for a few minutes.
The pecking chickens and lovable pigs are things that we don’t often get to see—the behind the scenes of local farms. Many people in Sullivan County and surrounding areas have probably never been to a farm, despite the abundance of them nearby. Agriculture represents one of the largest economic sectors in Sullivan County, with the combined output value of agriculture exceeding $68,000,000 in 2010. Farmstock brings the people to the source, and lets them learn and play farmer for a day.
Farmstock was started in March 2010 by a group of “farm women” who saw their farms dwindling. They started a farm network, and out of an interest in trying to educate people, they started Farmstock.
“They wanted to have people come and visit the farms to see how their food is raised and what farmers go through to bring food to the table,” said Erlwein.
Farmstock started with four or five farms, and last year, they did 12 events. This year, there will be nine events.
Erlwein said, “Our mission is to be advocates for farmers to help them in any way we can and to educate people as to why small farms are important.”
In fact, farm tours are growing increasingly popular. In a time when small, local farms may be struggling to survive, agritourism brings in extra profit. A 2000 study from Cornell University reported that farmers who turned to agritourism could be as much as 40% more profitable than those who did not. A USDA census of agriculture, conducted every five years, estimated that 23,000 farms offered agritourism activities in 2007, bringing in an average of $24,300 for each in additional income. Not only is giving tours educational, but it’s also a good business plan.
And it doesn’t end with just tours; farmers are getting creative.
Root n’ Roost, for example, held a “work and learn party,” where they invited anyone who wanted to learn to come to their property and help set up a green house. They also hold classes, like how to keep bees. On the day of my visit, a participant in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farming (WWOOF, www.wwoofinternational.org ) had just left, and a new intern was to arrive that day. Interning and organizations like WWOOF provide an excellent way for those who want to learn about farming to get educated; it’s like going to college. “Being a farm intern, you learn about more than just the plants and animals that you raise; you also learn to listen to your body’s physical limits, to truly appreciate community and to respect nature in all of its strength and glory,” said Cheyenne.
If you want to see for yourself why Sean and Cheyenne love their job, come and visit them. Root n’ Roost’s Farmstock tour is on Saturday, August 10, and they will offer a workshop called “Fowl Play: Permaculture with Chickens and Ducks” and DIY hoop house construction. So go on, get your hands dirty.
Farmstock 2013 Schedule
Saturday, June 1
540 County Road 164, Callicoon
914/953-2506, 845/887-6801, www.rosehavenalpacas.com 
• Farm tours
• Spinning demo
• Craft corner for kids
Saturday, June 29
Apple Pond Farm
80 Hahn Road, Callicoon Center
845/482-4764, www.applepondfarm.com 
• All about chickens
• 2 p.m. goat milking/cheese making
• Gardening tips
Saturday, July 6
218 Knickerbocker Rd, Livingston Manor
• Check out baby pigs & chicks
• Walking farm tour
Saturday, July 20
Diehl Homestead Farm
93 Diehl Road, Callicoon
• Honey extracting &maple syrup
• 2 p.m. milking demo
• Cheese making
Saturday, August 10
Root n' Roost Farm
64 Mineral Springs Rd, Livingston Manor
845/292-9126, www.rootnroost.com 
• Fowl play: permaculture with chickens & ducks
• 1 p.m. DIY hoop house construction
Sunday, August 18
522 Happy Avenue, Swan Lake
• Hay rides with educational info
• Tour of milking process
• View of bottling plant
Saturday, August 24
605 Dutch Hill Road, Roscoe
• Horse rides
• Free-range chickens
• Home of rescued animals
Saturday, August 31
Channery Hill Farm / Halloran Farm
77 Keller Road, Callicoon Center
• Herbs & vegetable growing
• Canning & preserving demo
• European red deer
• Antler jewelry & knife making
Saturday, September 8
Bridle Hill Farm
190 Hemmer Road, Jeffersonville
845/482-3993, www.bridlehillfarm.com 
• Western mini trail ride
• English trotting lunge session
• Grooming & saddling