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Overnight stays spotlighted at Country Cousins Farm on Open Farm Sunday

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EVANS MILLS — Guests from New York City, New Jersey, Syracuse and Toronto got to experience authentic “country living” this summer by staying overnight at a cabin at Country Cousins Farm, a small, 57-cow dairy farm in Evans Mills.

That was one of the reasons Stanley S. Horning’s farm was chosen by Agri-Mark Cooperative as one of 51 dairy farms across the Northeast to host a public open house on Sunday. The third annual “Open Farm Sunday,” held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., featured Cabot and McCadam cheeses because milk from Country Cousins and other Agri-Mark members is used to make it. About 100 people visited the farm, 29415 Fults Road, and ate burgers topped with different Cabot cheeses, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of cheese samples.

Mr. Horning has owned the 270-acre farm with his wife, Sharon E., since 1993, when the couple moved here from Lancaster, Pa. The couple began hosting farm visits in May 2012.

A family of Ecuadorian immigrants from New York City stayed at the farm during the Fourth of July weekend, when they helped with chores and asked a plethora of questions. Mr. Horning said it was about 4 a.m. when the six-member group, including two children, arrived at the farm’s cabin, which has room for up to eight people and is equipped with two double beds, a pair of bunk beds, a futon and appliances including a television and coffee maker.

The guests from the Big Apple were initially amazed by how quiet it was on the farm, Mr. Horning said. The 50-year-old owner laughed when he recalled how the group reacted when the Hornings started morning chores at 4 a.m.

“They were scared because they weren’t used to the silence,” he said. “So when I called the cows from the pasture into the barn, it scared them. They heard me yelling, ‘C’mon, c’mon!’ to the cattle, and they ran outside to see what was happening and peered through the windows of the barn.”

Later during their stay, “the family spent some time to squeeze fresh milk right out of the cow to drink it up,” he said. “They also watched the sun come shimmering up from the horizon outside the cabin, which they don’t see in the city because it’s blocked by buildings.”

Peculiarities are commonly exhibited by guests who hail from big cities, Mr. Horning said. Some of them volunteer to get their hands dirty by helping with farm chores — milking cows, scraping manure and piling hay. Others are more reclusive, choosing to stay in the cabin for most of their time.

Families are always welcomed to pitch in during morning chores before breakfast. Seven days a week, Mr. Horning and his 17-year-old son, Derek L., wake up early to milk and feed the herd together. But most guests, understandably, elect to help during the afternoon shift instead.

This August, “we had the father of a family from Syracuse who got up with us early once for chores,” Mr. Horning said. “We don’t ask them to do anything they don’t want to do. But if they want to get in there to scrape the manure and milk cows at 4 a.m., they’re welcome to help.”

In early August, the Hornings rented the cabin to a young man in his mid-20s who came from the coast of New Jersey. As a limousine chauffeur habituated to city life, the urbanite had no prior knowledge of farming.

“He liked it here so much that he stayed an extra day,” Mr. Horning said. “We tried to teach him the difference between the cows, but it seemed to all go over his head. He helped bale hay, and we took him for a ride on the tractor. He had family suppers with us during the evenings and played cards.”

The Hornings haven’t yet attracted enough visitors to make a profit on the cabin, Mr. Horning said. He expects it to take three to five years to build a strong client base. But the Christian family — who advertises the farm stays as a ministry — didn’t open the cabin simply to rake in cash.

“At some point, we’ll hopefully make some money to cover our costs, but this cabin thing is more about the ministry for us,” Mr. Horning said.

Jefferson County dairy princess Casey S. Porter, 17, served food and mingled with visitors Sunday. Eight other dairy princesses and ambassadors from Jefferson and Lewis counties also volunteered.

“The farm stays offered here are awesome,” Miss Porter said. “They give people an opportunity to see what goes on at a farm. It tends to be tough for people to understand because publicity (about farms) in the media is sometimes negative.”

Visit www.countrycousinsfarm.com to learn more about the farm.







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