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November 21, 2012

Back in the sticks

Ranch combines recreation, tourism and agriculture

By Michelle Miller
Cooperstown Crier

---- — FLY CREEK

There are still a few dirt roads left in the area.

Bedbug Hill Road in Fly Creek is one of them. It is narrow and lined with woods on both sides. Nestled a few miles down the what looks more like a dirt path than a road is something most people would probably not expect to stumble upon — a rather large ranch with a guest house and spa.

B&B Ranch is a country inn with lots to offer including a farm-to-table restaurant, stables for horseback riding and boarding, private hunting grounds, a full-service spa and wellness center, banquet facilities and a buyers club. It is also a community supported agricultural farm that produces livestock for its restaurant and for those who support the project, livestock and farm.

Owner “Babe” Giombetti pulled out a business card that featured a logo of green and yellow plate along with a fork and knife while describing what his newly formed business is all about. It stands for agricultural tourism, he explained. 

“Anywhere you go in Europe, and you see this version of this green and yellow plate with a fork and knife, that means it is a working farm of combinations. So what we are doing here is carrying on the tradition from Northern Italy. And quite frankly given the shift to the local food movement here and agricultural tourism here, we thought the time was perfect to bring back what old is new again — what has been going on in Europe for decades. We are just capitalizing on those trends,” he said. 

On the ranch is a herd of Piedmontese (a breed of cattle from the region of Piedmont, in north-west Italy). Spanish meat goats, Berkshire pigs and a large number of horses.

The ranch opened in July and is a year-round business. However, there is a kicker — it is a members-only facility. 

“We are basically a country club for horse people and sportsmen to come and enjoy a good meal and stay over night, have a really nice glass of wine and enjoy the place,” Giombetti said.

“B & B Ranch offers a chance to slow down, stop whatever it is you’re doing and devote some attention to yourself, in nature, to eating and to really sharing good times,” he added.

Through its sportsman club, the ranch offers upland bird hunting from September through April as well as year-round dog training. According to its website, the club is sustained through yearly membership and is open to the public by reservation and day-use membership. Membership includes access to the guest house and spa, and packages can include food, lodging and more. The upland-game-bird hunting experience can include pheasant or quail or combinations of the two.

The website says, with more than 340 acres of mixed habitat under management, the pheasants and quail are raised in a small farm habitat and released onto the property.

The ranch also has a riding club. Members get daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. access to the stables, paddocks, training areas and riding trails. There are also private changing rooms, a heated tack room, an observation room and secure tack storage areas. 

Mitzy Summers serves as a resident trainer. She is a Level IV Centered Riding Instructor (one of 20 in the world) and 2010 Certified Horsemanship International Clinican of the Year. At the ranch, she provides private individual lessons and frequent horse riding and training clinics. Summers directs the educational section of the entire horse operation on the ranch for club members and for anyone interested in furthering their skills and their relationship with their horse, according to the website.

Most members are from within 180 miles of the ranch, according to Giombetti. He said his inspiration for starting the business came from traveling a lot and the small-town in Pennsylvania where he was raised. 

“It was basically an Italian immigrant community where people were very self-sufficient,” Giombetti said. “Our whole operation is about capturing and holding on to a way of life that in our fast-paced society we are losing.”

Giombetti said his expertise is in strategic planning, infrastructure development and supply chain management having worked for large holding companies such as FedEx in the past.

However, he said he wanted to do something different. 

Giombetti has dedicated his efforts to his mother, Shirley. She was born on a small farm in South Canaan, Pa. Most of the recipes featured at the restaurant and hers.

“This place is very much a reflection of my childhood,” Giombetti said.

A deeply spiritual woman, Giombetti said, his mother drew inspiration from the natural landscape she grew up in. She taught her own three sons the same deep love, endless hope, respect, faith in life and to seek desire for excellence through the power of reaching toward excellence, step by step by step, he added.

So why the location?

Giombetti said he did some research and it came down to Fly Creek or a place in Stowe, Vt. 

“My wife and I chose here because of proximity to where we are from,” he said. 

Guest rooms are being rented out to the public at this time, but the hope is to just have it be member-only access once membership grows, according to Giombetti.

To learn more about the ranch or becoming a member, visit http://bandbranch.com/ or call 547-5272.