Fort Ticonderoga’s original farm to fork program began thousands of years ago when Native American peoples farmed the Ticonderoga peninsula. Following European contact, Ticonderoga known as Carillon by the French, utilized its rich landscape on the shore of Lake Champlain to grow vegetables for the soldiers. The 6-acre garden first planted by the French, later farmed by the English and Americans offered the soldiers important nutrients to supplement their rations. During the American Revolution, items grown in the garden such as greens, peas, radishes, carrots, and potatoes were often first offered to the sick soldiers to help restore their health.
Following the military occupation in the 18th century, the Ticonderoga peninsula continued to thrive as a farm and garden in the early American republic when the wealthy merchant William Ferris Pell acquired the peninsula and preserved the ruins of the fort – considered the earliest act of preservation in America. Pell was a horticulturist and brought his talent and passion to Ticonderoga, bringing the finest shrubs, fruit trees, and garden varietals available to the beautiful landscape. The gardens and surrounding farmland provided for Pell, his family, and the many guests visiting the historic property. In the second half of the 19th century, the Pell home known as the Pavilion became a hotel, and again the gardens and farm supplied the hungry visitors who visited the old fort ruins as part of their adventure on the great northern tour.
By the late 19th century, the Fort Ticonderoga land and the Pavilion were occupied by tenant farmers. The land had become known as the Ticonderoga Farms. Even under the ownership of museum founders Stephen and Sarah Pell, the landmark restoration of the fort in its early days from 1908 through the 1920s was under the business name Fort Ticonderoga Farms. The new gardens planted by Stephen and Sarah Pell reflected permanence and pleasure and included such items as asparagus, seasonal berries, and fruit trees as well as edible flowers. The Pells served fresh field-to-table meals in their home, the Pavilion, to countless guests who visited the historic fort and museum.
Today, our farm to fork program is embedded in the deep roots of the Ticonderoga peninsula’s history. 40% of the 2000 acres owned by the Fort Ticonderoga Association is farmland. In the King’s Garden area of the site, produce is grown to support educational programs. Museum staff utilizes the farmed items to create their noonday meal based on historical documentation found in our museum collection. This program is available to 75,000 visitors annually. More than 25,000 youth annually roll up their sleeves to dig into the centuries of horticulture history and learn how the vegetables grown in the King’s Garden supported the dietary needs of the soldiers.
Destination dining in America’s Fort Café brings fresh produce, often including heritage vegetables, straight to guest plates along with a Fort Ticonderoga story.
In 2015, Fort Ticonderoga began a heritage breeds program and began raising chicken to enhance the historic experience and provide necessary food for the soldiers’ menu. In 2017 Fort Ticonderoga acquired its first herd of cattle. With this major step, it is anticipated that this program will continue to grow, enhance the historic setting, and provide beef for the soldiers’ menu and future programs. The current program is a success, but we have many opportunities to build a transformative program in the years to come!
The vision for the growing field-to-table-program at Fort Ticonderoga will expand upon our rich story and create new initiatives which will bring healthy eating programs to more rural children in the North Country and Vermont. Students will have the opportunity to learn about farming, harvest produce in the gardens, and prepare their meal in either the portable teaching kitchen in the Pavilion or in a recreated 18th-century soldiers’ camp kitchen. Outreach programs and on-site programs will provide vital educational opportunities for youth in this impoverished region.
Expanding beyond the regional market, a proposed Destination Education Program will engage a growing number of students from national feeder markets such as New York (*note that Ticonderoga is accessible by the Amtrak line that connects NY Penn Station and Montreal, Canada) and Boston. An overnight program will immerse urban youth in expeditionary learning which will connect the story of the founding of America and what it took to feed an army to keep them healthy. Lessons learned will highlight the process of growing food and the importance of healthy eating. Students will harvest produce and make their dinner either in an 18th-century camp kitchen or in the new teaching kitchen located in the Pavilion.
The future farm-to-table program will also offer exciting destination dining opportunities that connect the flavors and produce of our site with the discovery of our story, which will further enhance your tourism experience and help define the Adirondack region as a culinary hot-spot. The plans include opening 2 unique destination dining restaurants which will feature items from our farm-to-table menu, locally produced beer, wine, and liquors – all combined in fresh creative recipes inspired by our international story and layers of history.
Destination culinary programs featuring guest chefs in our state-of-the-art kitchen in the 1826 National Historic Landmark home (the Pavilion) will engage new audiences to Fort Ticonderoga and will inspire guests to roll up their sleeves in our agricultural history and create delicious menu offerings – including fresh herbs, seasonal fruits and berries, and a variety of vegetables direct from our field to table. The expanded culinary program will also create jobs and offer vital job training for the North Country workforce. Currently, the region is depleted of the needed workforce to support the hospitality and restaurant industry often forcing restaurants to hire international employees. This proposed program will seek to partner with regional culinary programs and offer college-level student apprenticeship programs to build a stronger labor force.
Raising Beef, Lamb and Poultry is a tremendous opportunity for Fort Ticonderoga to expand its heritage breed program, create educational initiatives, enhance its historic landscape, and humanely raise the animals on lush pastures with natural grains and abstaining from growth hormones and antibiotics. A small portion of the future herd and flock will be culled each year so estate restaurants can serve premium cuts of meat.
Supporting Community Agriculture in Vermont and New York
While Fort Ticonderoga looks forward to the growth in its agricultural production and farm to fork program, its current and future demands exceed its production. In a commitment to serve the regional agricultural economy and serve only the best, Fort Ticonderoga will increasingly work with community farmers and producers to source local ingredients and meat. Through an expanded Farmers Market and our Heritage and Harvest programs and Festivals, Fort Ticonderoga highlights the flavors of the region and production allowing regional producers to directly reach our destination market.
In pursuit of local and good, Fort Ticonderoga’s Fork to Table program partners with Black River Produce featuring 600 locally sourced growers including:
- Misty Knoll Farm
- Green Mountain Blue Cheese
- Thistle Hill Farm
- Wilson Farm
- Woods Market Garden
- Champlain Valley Farm
- Vermont Butter and Cheese
- Deep Meadow Farm
- Settlement Farm