Kinderhook Farm: A Fantasy Vacation Destination
When she was five-years-old, Renee Iacone Clearman’s family planned to go to a farm for a vacation. “I was delirious!,” she recalls. “I packed all my clothes into grocery bags. Then my father got sick, so we couldn’t go.”
Decades passed. Then in 2001, Renee, an artist who shows at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, and her husband Steve Clearman, a money manager, bought a country place in Ghent. “Just down the road, there was a beautiful 1200-acre farm. We learned that it might go on the market, so Steve began to think about how he could buy it.” The place had been neglected, so there were acres of overgrown brush, miles of broken fences, and buildings in various stages of decay. Clearly if steps weren’t taken promptly, the land would soon be irretrievably overgrown. According to Renee, “Steve wanted to preserve it as open space.”
The most efficient way to do that, of course, would be to keep on farming. So Steve called an old friend, lawyer-turned-farmer Lee Ranney, who, with his artist wife, Georgia, had been raising cattle in West Virginia. Steve asked the Ranneys to come up to Columbia County to take a look.
Soon, the Clearmans and the Ranneys were partners in Kinderhook Farm. Lee and Georgia moved into the 18th-century farmhouse on the property and took charge of the mending, planting, repairing, and acquiring livestock. “Our dream was to preserve the beauty of the open land by planting grasses, so we could eventually produce high-quality lamb and beef.”
Ten years hence, that dream has become a reality. Kinderhook Farm meats are highly regarded by top butchers and chefs, both locally and in New York City. In addition to the farm’s contribution to the beauty of the countryside, the property has also evolved into a multi-faceted community asset. The Clearmans and the Ranneys have offered their neighbors space on the property for a community garden, and the charming Kinderhook Farm Store is a popular source of top-notch eggs, chicken, lamb, and beef. Neighbors are welcome to hike through the pastures, and during summer, aspiring farmers stay on the property in the “intern house,” while serving paid internships. Parents bring their little ones to visit the chickens and to say hi to Ginny, the donkey, and her bff, Oreo, a barn cat.
All was thus running smoothly, when a year or two ago, it occurred to Renee that this idyllic, peaceable kingdom would be the perfect setting for the kind of farm-stay vacation she’d dreamed of so long ago.
This summer they will welcome their first guests. Perhaps it is because she has never actually gone on farm stay vacation or maybe its the fact that her dream had the better part of a lifetime to ferment; in any event, Renee Clearman’s version of a farm stay is, safe to say, in a class by itself. To begin, guests (and there is just one party of them on the property at any given time) get a private barn-turned-guesthouse to call their own. The newly renovated, open-plan space (only the bathroom is completely separated by floor-to-ceiling walls and a door) is cleverly designed to maximize views of both the hundreds of acres of rolling meadow outside and the wonderful volume of space within. Furnished by Renee with an artist’s touch, the result is like something out of—no other word for it—a dream.
Most farms specializing in stays operate like b&b’s, where guests and farmers gather around a common breakfast table. Not here. At Kinderhook Farm, guests cook for themselves in their own well-appointed kitchen. This arrangement is ideal for families with small children, and no less so for couples seeking solitude in a beautiful setting—a place to read, write, paint, or just be still, the better to observe—or, if they like, participate in—the life of the farm.
Despite an appearance of serenity, farms teem with life, from cock’s crow in the morning to the sheep returning to their barn at night. Guests also have their own kitchen garden, where they are free to pick their dinner—produce and eggs are included in the price of the rental. For stellar organic meat, the farm store is just a short stroll from the guest barn.
Food, yes, broadband, no. The barn has no t.v., no telephone, no internet, though cell service (depending on provider) is generally good. For those determined to keep in touch, there are plenty of internet cafés, as well as art galleries, restaurants, a world-class auction house, antiques stores, even a first-rate nightclub in nearby Hudson, just 15 minutes away. Kinderhook Farm’s one concession to connectivity: the management thoughtfully provides a radio.
Rates: $285/night, 2 night minimum; $1800/week, eggs and vegetables included