Home Cooking From Gorsky Farm
Katie and Wayne Gorsky have turned making a living into a life with their two boys on Gorsky Farm.
Running a farm is a circus, according to Katie Gorsky, who should know.
“Believe it or not my circus life was very similar to my farm life,” Katie tells Edible as she and her husband, Wayne, maneuver around their kitchen filling each other in on everything that’s happened in the five hours since they’ve been up and running (it was only 9 am) and needs to happen before the close of business (still nine hours away).
Katie was born in the Bronx, the eldest of three. Her father, Mike Naughton, owned the Yankee Doodle Circus, and she grew up juggling a life of school at Albany’s Academy of the Holy Names and on the road as they toured all over the Northeast. Every member of the family was expected to contribute; Katie found her niche behind the scenes, discovering a passion and talent for gently imposing method into a systemic madness.
After a romantic-comedy-worthy series of felicitous events sparked by an unexpected meeting in an online chat room in 1999, Katie finds herself here, in Stillwater, married to a born-and-bred farmer named Wayne Gorsky, the mother of two, George, six, and Joey, 15, and the accidental cofounder of a serious farm-to-fridge business.
Wayne is a fourth-generation farmer who grew up literally right next door. His father, Tom, runs the 383-acre Gorsky Dairy Farm adjacent to their farm, plus another 300 acres of crops in Schuylerville. Also the eldest of three, Wayne, too, happily worked in the family business from the get-go, relishing the time spent outside and with animals.
For Katie, creating order in the chaos was part of the thrill. “I love logistics. We’d be at a gas station in the middle of New Hampshire in the summer with no hoses to water our thirsty horses, or trying to set up just as a storm was swooping in, and we just had to figure it out. Make it work,” she explains, grabbing a sheet-tray full of steaming hot cinnamon buns from the oven and sending waves of melting, sweet-cinnamon butter cascading through the sparkling commercial kitchen she and Wayne put in on the farm so that she could legally sell the goodies she was already making anyway.
Their nascent empire was launched tentatively four years ago, when Katie’s good friend Kathleen called her bluff on wanting chickens and told her to build a coop because seven chickens were being delivered. Katie, Wayne and the kids are living on a former 72-acre farm his father had purchased from his neighbor when they were ready to retire. Until then, she had worked in insurance and Wayne had farmed for his father. “But I fell in love with raising chickens,” Katie says. “They just wander around, cheerfully eating bugs. They don’t talk back, and they put themselves to bed at night.”
Soon, friends and neighbors were hooked on Katie’s eggs. Slowly, but surely, they began adding animals and infrastructure. Now, they have 400 chickens, a dozen pigs, some sheep and cows, three dogs and 19 cats and plans to add turkey. They have a quarter-acre worth of vegetables and fruit for seasonal plantings. Plus a booming compost and firewood business, thanks to Katie and Wayne’s circus-farm waste-not-want-not approach to life, love and farming.
“Every day at the circus and the farm there’s a learning curve, there are animals to tend to, unforeseen crises, breakdowns in equipment,” she says, glancing at Wayne, who grimaces conspiratorially. “The main difference is, now instead of packing up every night and waking up at dawn to move onto the next town, I just wake up on the farm.”
“Yep, she’s used to working every day just like us,” chimes in Wayne. And when they say “every day,” they mean it. “The animals don’t know it’s Christmas! So I figure, why not open up shop?” Katie explains of her 365-day philosophy.
Their on-farm market, which opened in a modest Amish shed to accommodate their ever-growing roster of customers, sells eggs, pork, lamb, beef, chicken, sausages, bacon, seasonal fruit and vegetables and baked goods all grown or baked on the farm, plus milk and cream from King Brother’s Dairy, is open every day, from 10 am to 7 pm (sometimes later). For their cricket-high customers, there’s a lending library of well-loved farm-themed board books. (And there’s frequently at least one feathered or furry helper in the store who can’t get enough of Katie, despite her entreaties to “shoo!”)
“Yeah, we don’t get out much,” Katie admits, laughing. “But that’s okay, because now my friends just come to hang out here and pick up some groceries while they’re at it.”
Driving to Gorsky farm, it’s easy to see why she and Wayne don’t feel the need to hit the road. Just 15 minutes from downtown Saratoga Springs, down Union Avenue past the last remnants of the city’s buzz and bustle on Saratoga Lake, a stillness settles on the land. Following signs to the farm, visitors are led up quiet, hilly country roads until the farmland tilled by Wayne, his father and two sets of fathers before him suddenly appears around a bend, stretching its bounty toward the horizon, broken by barns and farm buildings. Sheep and curious chickens scatter when cars pull in, while farm dogs bark and yelp cheerfully and George greets customers, offering them a look at his favorite kitten, who likes to drape, purring over his arm, when she’s not learning to mouse.
Pulling in, the market is on the right. The commercial kitchen, attached to their home, is on the left. An ancient barn is straight ahead. Farmland stretches as far as the eye can see.
Before the market opens, Katie gets her baking done, and when Wayne isn’t tending to the animals or a farm chore, he’ll swing in to the kitchen so they can catch up.
“Our approach to growing and cooking food for ourselves and others is very simple,” Katie says. “Keep it simple. We have locally grown and milled feed for our animals. They range freely and eat bugs and grass. There are all of these barriers around food these days. I even see it in my own family. Cousins from the city who’ve never been to a farm, kids who don’t understand that the eggs they get at A&P actually come from a chicken first. And the junk food! Don’t get me started.”
“Please. Just don’t,” Wayne advises.
But Katie has as little time for heirloom vegetables and esoteric varieties of pigs as she does for high-fructose corn syrup or Red 40. “Can we just eat real food, please? Something that comes from a farm?”
Her rootsy, practical approach is clearly hitting the spot with locals. Gorsky products are only available on-site, but through word-of-mouth, a vibrant presence on social media and strategically placed signs on Union Avenue and 9P with their address, hours and other vitals, the freezers and fridges don’t stay stocked for long.
Everything is available à la carte, but savvy customers sign up for the text blasts, which advertise weekly and monthly specials that offer a Big Box value with a locavore, farm-to-table soul. (For example, a recent bundle blasted to text subscribers offered four pounds of ground beef, two pork shoulder chops, Canadian bacon, beef shank steak, two-dozen eggs, a four-pack of homemade buttermilk biscuits, an eight-pack of from-scratch cookies, a quart of lemonade and a bundle of firewood … for $49.50).
“I want to make it easier for people to eat food the way it’s supposed to be,” Katie says. “It shouldn’t be unaffordable to eat good, healthy meat raised the right way, and delicious baked goods and lemonade that aren’t filled with chemicals.”
Sometimes, she, Wayne, George and Joey even manage to share the wealth with themselves.
“Oh that’s the best,” Wayne and Katie agree.
“When the stars align and we can actually eat a meal together, I love it,” Katie says. “It’s my goal every night. Last night? Didn’t happen. I looked at my watch at 10 pm and I was in Home Depot buying equipment. But the night before? Short ribs and beans. We were all there. Everyone was in a good mood. The food was great, the company was great. Perfection, or as close as it gets.”
So what’s next? Now that Katie and Wayne have restocked the community’s fridges and pantries with better food, they want to make us understand where it comes from and who grows it.
“Back in the day before Wayne’s time, more his grandparent’s generation, his dad would go to the grange right down the street,” Katie says. “Townspeople and farmers would be there, talking. It was a real community. But there’s nothing like that anymore. Yes, there’s Facebook and blogs, and that’s how a lot of people become interested in food and farming. But it’s not the same.”
What she and Wayne really want to do, she confides, is help members of the community—the farmers and the eaters—come together, share farm-fresh homemade meals sourced directly from Gorsky’s fields and those of surrounding farms. To open up a dialogue between the people who grow the food we eat and help engage members of a younger generation whose lives have strayed so far from the farm, they literally have no idea where their food comes from. So keep your eyes peeled for Gorsky Farm community events in the future.
And in the meantime stock up on a Gorsky bundle, and bring your kids with you to pick it up. If Katie and George are there, and it’s slow, they’ll take you around, show you the vegetable gardens, the laying hens, their favorite frisky sheep. And when the stars align and no boring adult duties beckon, you’ll have all of the ingredients you need for the perfect family meal, sourced from the fields, ready for a spin in your oven. Plus cookies!