Harvesting Happiness

From local farmers selling fresh produce, to an array of animals readily available for petting, to live music, activities and games, the Hudson Valley Harvest Festival had a little something for everyone.

Just in time for the beginning of autumn, the first annual Hudson Valley Harvest Festival was held this past weekend at the Ulster County Fairgrounds.

Brainchild of Family of Woodstock Inc’s Executive Director Michael Berg, the Harvest Festival became a reality when he teamed up with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County’s Executive Director Lydia Reidy to bring the plans to life.

“What we were really interested in was having folks come out to an agricultural setting and realize how agricultural Ulster County still really is,” Reidy said. “We came up with this idea so they can understand the breadth of what Ulster County can grow.”

Reidy said the emphasis of the Harvest Festival was to make the event family-friendly so it incorporated many events for all ages.

A sampling of the events included a sweet corn shuck off, corn tortilla-making, live bands performing throughout the day and Zumba dance demos; these might not even have been the liveliest of the events.

Livestock — including pigs, cows, chickens and bunnies, were available for petting as overseen by Cornell Cooperative 4-H youth development program members.

Vendors were stationed outdoors, serving desserts and eclectic food like Mediterranean, Mexican and Jamaican specialties, as well as indoors where a variety of locally grown produce was showcased.

The two non-profit organizations looked forward to the success of the Harvest Festival, especially with recent decreases in county and state funding. Family of Woodstock and the Cornell Cooperative collaborate on free programs on education, family and nutrition with a focus on the Hudson Valley and its resources.

Hudson Valley growers have gradually learned to maintain quality produce and “sustain family farms in a time when produce is being produced in huge quantities,” Berg said. With the continuation of the organizations’ programs,they can continue progressing.

All of the Hudson Valley Harvest Festival proceeds will benefit the two organizations.

“Our goal was to have the people that came have a really great experience and by word of mouth spread the excitement of their time here,” Reidy said. “What will get people excited about this is realizing that it’s right in their own backyard and it’s celebrating our agricultural heritage, so let’s go!”