Hudson Valley Harvest Festival celebrates produce, fun

Jess Robie is a team leader for Adolescent Services at Family of Woodstock and
co-organizer of the Grand Fondo Gunks bike race to be held in conjunction with the Harvest Festival. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Festival and fair lovers looking for something to spice up their weekend can rejoice — the all-new Hudson Valley Harvest Festival will be held at the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Sept. 22-23. The celebration is due to highlight the craftsmanship and expertise of local farmers and artisans.

Michael Berg, with Family of Woodstock, helped organize the event, which will raise money for both the Family food pantries and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Where Cornell helps provide farmers with the knowledge and skills they need to grow, Family of Woodstock and its satellites rely on the produce they make.

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“Family’s been doing extensive work in transporting and delivering vegetables that were donated by Rondout Valley growers to the food pantries and feeding programs in the valley. We have an investment in the county’s agricultural industry,” Berg explained.

This year the financial situations for both organizations dimmed.

“The idea came out of a discussion I had with the leadership of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. We both took some significant hits from the government,” he said. “So we both needed to raise some money. I suggested that we hold a harvest festival.”

One big push with the event is to remind people of the kinds of produce and goods they can get right here at home. “We’re trying to promote everything local,” Berg said.

Awareness of food and of where it comes from, selecting and searching for the freshest local ingredients is important. “We’re seeing huge health issues around obesity, and when you talk to professionals the first thing they say is eat more vegetables and fruit. Well, the closer you get to the people that grew it, the higher the quality, the greater the value, vitamin richness, the mineral richness of what you’re eating. So for that reason, we want that locally grown produce for as long as we can.”

The Hudson Valley Harvest Festival is an event with some kinship to a county fair or even Taste of New Paltz. It will feature live music, great food, the 4-H Festival, a livestock exhibit, food canning demonstrations, vendors and the 2012 Tomato of the Year contest.

The tomato contest will allow festivalgoers to vote on their very favorite heirloom tomato to see which variety they like the best.

On top of all that, the event will be the staging ground for the Wildcat Epic’s Gran Fondo Gunks bicycle tour. Occurring on Sunday, the festival’s second day, the bike ride allows cyclists to choose their own level of dedication. There’s an 18-mile route, a 38-mile route, a 68-miler and a 108-mile-long ride.

If one member of the family wants to ride, the Hudson Valley Harvest Festival has something for the rest of them. “So they can ride, or they can enjoy the fair while waiting for their family and friends to finish the ride,” he said.

Hudson Valley Harvest Festival runs from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission is $5; ages 5-12 is $3 and ages 4 and under are free. Proceeds from the event go to benefit Family and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

For more about the festival, head to www.hudsonvalleyharvestfestival.com. To learn more about the bicycle event, head to https://www.wildcatepicevents.com/gran-fondo-gunks/.

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