Hudson Valley, NY (September 2013)—Drive down any country road in the Hudson Valley and you’re bound to find a cheery red barn filled with wonderful local produce and products made right here. Some of these farms have taken their market experience to new heights, giving visitors not only a taste of the Hudson Valley, but also a sense of the rich agricultural history that has prevailed for hundreds of years.

Prospect Hill Orchards in the gently rolling hills of Milton has been farmed by seven generations over a period of nearly 200 years. Pick your own apples here and you’re plucking history right from the tree. The orchard was part of the original 55-acre homestead of Nathaniel Clarke when he purchased it in 1877. Browse through their “made on the farm” products and take a ride on the hay wagon. Kids Days on September 28 and 29 entertain the whole family with interactive projects, cider pressing, and a corn maze, all at no charge. Dr. Davies Farm in Congers also has an early history with a farmhouse built in 1836. Purchased by the family in 1891, it was home to Dr. Lucy Virginia Davies, one of the first female doctors in the U.S.  In addition to having a full time medical practice (delivering over 6,000 babies in the area), Dr. Davies also became an acclaimed farmer, shipping strawberries to New York City. In succeeding years, famous Manhattan restaurateurs like Dinty Moore would often come to the farm for fresh vegetables. Visitors today pick apples from over 4,000 trees on the property and shop at two farm stands. Try their fresh pressed cider before taking a hayride to the orchard.

Seven generations have run Pierson Bicentennial Farm in Middletown surrounded by lush green pastures where their cattle graze. The Piersons sell natural beef and chicken broilers along with home grown produce, flowers, and eggs from the old wagon house, artfully transformed into a gift shop and filled with everything from antiques to country crafts. Fall is celebrated throughout the month of October with one of the largest corn mazes in the region. Pick your own pumpkins, and on Saturdays, scare yourself to death with a terror-filled Fright Night trip through the barn. High quality pasture-raised meat and eggs are also available from Glynwood’s Farm in Cold Spring. This working farm in the heart of Fahnestock State Park has an ambitious vision for sustainable food and farming throughout the Hudson Valley. Innovative programs train the next generation of farmers, and visitors can take in the rural beauty of this historic property with a self-guided tour through fields and barns. Glynwood’s Farm Store furthers their mission to build a strong regional food system by featuring a selection of specialty products made by Hudson Valley farmers and artisans, including local cheeses, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Discovering where our food comes from has opened up all kinds of agricultural experiences. The Discovery Garden and ¼ mile Farm-Walk at McEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton is a self-guided tour with activities such as seed saving and garland making. Learn about farm practices, tour a barn complex, and stroll through some of their eleven greenhouses. Visitors are encouraged to stay for lunch at the large market where you can also purchase organic produce and locally raised and butchered meats. Themed Family Farm Days are held each month and best of all, they’re free! Farm markets not only educate through activities, they teach just by selling what they grow. The fields of Black Horse in Athens are the major contributor of seasonal produce to their farm market. Family-run, they farm nearly 1000 acres to make sure that nothing except the freshest quality products are available on their shelves. And what products! Tantalizing aromas from their bakery swirl around as you shop the gourmet coffees and teas, artisan cheeses, honey, preserves, gluten-free products and other hard to find grocery items.   Beyond growing food, the farm also produces bedding plants sold along with garden supplies, statuary, planters and fountains, allowing you to create your own outdoor space.

Exploring the fields is one of the unique experiences at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills. The self-guided tour takes you through this farm and education center as it celebrates community-based food production. Every Sunday you can take a bit of the farm home when Stone Barns sells its own produce, meat, eggs, and products from surrounding farms. Even more of a treat is dining at their two restaurants, Blue Hill Café and Blue Hill at Stone Barns to taste the exquisite dishes made from everything grown at the farm. Produce grown on the farm doesn’t only end up on a plate. Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie takes fresh fruit from the orchard and distills it into brandy, vodka, grappa, and applejack. Join them in the tasting room for a sip of Peach Applejack, a true fruit spirit mellowed with rich flavors of spice and oak. The distillery is open ever weekend throughout the year with tours. Pick up a bottle of Apple Brandy and head for the farm stand where Golden Harvest sells the same fruits found in their bottles along with an assortment of cheeses, honeys, baked goods, and granolas.

Farm fresh produce and products found in urban markets have tall buildings instead of fields behind them, and the Empire State Plaza Farmers Market in Albany is even open year round. From May through October it’s held outdoors at the Empire State Plaza with the beautiful city backdrops that best define New York. From November to April the market moves indoors to the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza, filled with eclectic art from around the world. In every season, enjoy a variety of plants, baked goods, and even cooked meals from local growers. Across the river, another unusual market is the Troy Waterfront Twilight Market held Friday evenings on September 27th and October 25th at Riverfront Park in Troy. As dusk starts to fall at 5pm, come and experience the Twilight Market with its diverse assortment of local sellers. Shop the producer-only vendors, and dine on amazing prepared foods while listening to local musicians as you relax in the park next to the Hudson River.

Farm feasts are also part of Hudson Rising, a waterfront festival coming to Ossining on September 21st. Heritage ships will be moored in the river to join this spirited celebration. Boat tours, kayaking, plenty for the kids to do, and a smorgasbord of locally sourced foods, beer, and wine offer an exciting day on the shores of the Hudson.

Generations of farmers have fed families in the Hudson Valley since the 1600’s. Today these farms offer unique cultural experiences to residents and visitors who want to know where their food comes from. Good food is often accompanied by good fun with hayrides, music, corn mazes, and so many other ways to celebrate the harvest. Farms in the Hudson Valley offer a warm welcome and frequently hot cider!

Find more fun things to do at Hudson Valley Tourism, Inc. is the 10-county region designated by I LOVE NEW YORK to promote tourism for the area. Counties include Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester. Regional information can be obtained from the county tourism offices, or call 845-615-3860.