Basin Harbor Greens, Part One: Promoting the Land

Posted on September 14, 2012

Basin Harbor Club was founded by people who loved the land, from Ardelia Beach and her gardens and Allen Penfield Beach with his farm, to the nature-minded guests who still flock here to take in the pristine natural splendor. It’s no secret that Basin Harbor is one of the prettiest places in Vermont. The proof is in the multi-colored flower beds, the manicured lawns, the wooded trails, the historic vines and stonework, and of course the view across the lake! But the lovely appearance of the property is just a visual layer of Basin Harbor’s stewardship of the land. Behind the scenes, the resort functions efficiently to reduce waste, recycle materials, and protect habitat.

Like any good thing, let’s start with the food! Basin Harbor in recent years has seen an increased use of local ingredients on its elegant menus, reflecting both the cornucopia provided by Vermont’s plentiful farmland as well as the original principles that founded Allen Penfield Beach’s “Food Fresh Farm” back in the 1920s. The idea of eating and serving the freshest food was important in the history of Basin Harbor long before the “farm-to-table” movement swept the nation in recent times. Today, local products from Misty Knoll, Champlain Orchard, Norris Berry Farm, Pete’s Greens, LaLumiere Farmstead, Vermont Heritage Grazers, Thistle Hill Farm, Fresh Tracks Game and Poultry, and a myriad of local cheesemakers are highlighted in dishes featured in the Main Dining Room, Ranger Room, and the Red Mill. A weekly Farm-to-Table buffet and lakeside Vermont Artisan Dinner are new dining events that have propelled the New England resort into a new level of local.

Using ingredients that are grown nearby not only results in fresher food while promoting the community, but also reduces the amount of fuel and energy used for transportation. In addition to supporting nearby farms and food producers, Basin Harbor chefs at all three venues regularly employ herbs and garnishes planted just outside the kitchens. It’s not uncommon to come across freshly snipped chives, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena, a wide variety of mints, sage, kale, oregano, currants, gooseberries, an assortment of edible flowers, and more adorning your dinner plate—or in your fancy cocktail!

And what happens to the leftovers, when all is said and done? The composting operation at BHC is, in fact, a feat in itself! Guests who have been here before know that there is no shortage of food offered at the resort, and that means there are plenty of food scraps and leftovers as a result—about 75 tons of food waste, to be more specific. Rather than throwing out this organic matter, it is taken from the Main Dining Room, the Ranger Room, and the Red Mill to a giant composting cement pad on property and mixed with two parts organic scraps consisting of leaves, golf course grass clippings, local horse manure, and flower clippings. In fact, after being displayed elegantly in vases all over property during the summer, the entire crop of flower annuals eventually ends up in the compost bin, ready to pitch in some nutrients for the next year’s crop. This whole mass of matter is turned once a week for 6-8 weeks, and is then ready to be sifted and used as a gorgeous soil additive for future BHC gardens. The need for chemical fertilization of the gardens is thus eliminated through this composting effort.

The golf course is also a source of green, and not just for teeing off! Basin Harbor Club and Resort was the first golf course and first resort property in Vermont to become a Certified Audubon Sanctuary. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program is an education and certification program with a mission to “help organizations and businesses protect our environment while enhancing the bottom line by improving efficiency and promoting conservation efforts.” On the golf course, these efforts include planting wildflowers that attract pollinators and songbirds, thus improving the species richness of the property and keeping the native populations of flora and fauna in tact.

Also located on the golf course adjacent to the 15th Fairway is an osprey nesting platform, erected recently as part of the Basin Harbor Osprey Project. These amazing birds-of-prey were declared locally extinct by the 1970s due to high levels of DDT and loss of habitat, but restoration projects and the building of platforms that provided a safe nesting area for osprey have attracted the birds back to the area. With osprey populations on the rise again, a record number of sightings have been recorded this summer.

The opening of Basin Harbor’s own Nature Center in 2009, and subsequent enhancement of nature programming this year, has contributed a sense of environmental awareness amongst guests and employees alike. Informative displays about geology, local flora and fauna, lake lore, and protected species promote an interest and appreciation of the local surroundings. The center strives to be a resource for guests with concerns or questions, and offers art classes and educational treks in an effort to enhance visitors’ positive interaction with nature.

The fourth and fifth generation members of the Beach Family love this land just as much as the founding Beaches did, and plan to maintain their little slice of Vermont paradise in a sustainable way for many more years to come. Efforts to keep Basin Harbor Club green are constantly in consideration as we carry through each season, and the resort looks forward to meeting the challenges of the environment each year.