Christine McBrearty-Hulse takes a moment to check in with one of her farm’s North American Cashmere Goats
The chickens, Christine McBrearty-Hulse said, were “the gateway drug to farming” when she thought it would be fun to raise a few. Hulse Hill Farm, on Route 28 midway between Cooperstown and Fly Creek, still has chickens, but also pigs, barn cats, a rabbit, and goats of various age gathered in spacious fenced-in fields, with the farm’s North American Cashmere goat herd at the core of her farm products.
“It’s a true homestead farm experience,” she told The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta on a tour of the farm, which includes a bed-and-breakfast (including a well-appointed ‘tiny home’), vegetable gardens, and farm stand with products from the farm and local artisans. “We looked at our options and took old ideas from farming and 4-H and it turned into all this.”
Along with the b-and-b, Hulse Hill offers at-the-farm events, gearing up for an April 16 Make-a-Posey Fiber Pin workshop, farm tours on April weekends, and two projects about which Christine is excited – a ‘native paw paw tree’ discussion on April 23 and a Junior Farm Apprentice Program for local youth.
Her enthusiasm for the apprentice program stems not just from her love for farming, but also her attachment to students borne from a 30-year-plus career as a counselor for Cooperstown Central School.
“Particularly coming out of COVID, we’re hearing so much about students having too much ‘seat time,’” she said. “My goal is to get kids outside to be experiential, to enjoy being outside and with animals. Open space is what they need more of these days, and a farm is a great place to get it.”
Her education background drives her belief that the farm’s ‘junior apprentices’ do best with specific chores and instructions, but with room to “let them figure it out.”
“I miss the students and the experience of working with them every day,” she said. “The apprentice program lets them pick and choose where their interests are. If you’re into marketing, animals, gardening, we want to expose each student to each part of the process. Same with our event guests, showing them the entire process for preparing the cashmere for market.”
“For the kids, it’s a great chance to learn how to do something right,” she said. “There are specific tasks that need to be accomplished, but we’re not standing over them saying ‘do this or do that.’ There’s nothing I love more than seeing one of the kids just hanging out with the animals and having some quiet time in an open field. Take the time to enjoy. Otherwise, it’s no fun.”
Along with the fiber pin workshop, the Paw Paw Tree event on April 23 will introduce participants to a tree Christine says is ‘native to our area.’
“These grow on the Susquehanna,” she said. “We have someone coming in from Mohawk Spirits Distillery to explain how they take the fruit and distill it into a liqueur. If you taste one you get something super-sweet, like mango with banana. I’m really looking forward to that event.”
Plenty on offer at Hulse Hill Farms; for more information on its diverse slate of agriculture-based programs and opportunities, visit www.hulsehillfarm.com.