Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding Farms (or Farm Stands) in the Catskills

Farm Fresh Pie, optional blueberries

Our family vacationed in the Catskills earlier this month, and we made it a mission to seek out local farm stands and farms. The quest almost had a false start. It was my husband's birthday and I thought a fresh fruit pie from a country stand would be just the thing to celebrate. The only store in town was a Stewart's (a convenience store/gas station type of place) and I asked the 20-something clerk if there was a place nearby that I could buy a fresh pie or a cake. He was stumped for a minute and then said, "There's Wal-Mart in the next town. I think they have cakes." My heart sunk. Luckily, I pushed a little and said, "Isn't there a farm stand or a bakery or anything else, anywhere?" "Oh yeah," he replied, "there's a farm stand about 15 minutes from here" and he promptly gave me back-roads directions.

Well, the farm stand was Black Horse Farms in Athens, NY, which is sort of like a Wal-Mart of farm stands. Yes, they had pies, about 20 different kinds, as well as fresh breads, jams, fruits, veggies, flowers and all sorts of "gourmet" items like Raspberry Chipotle Salsa and "Gourmet Dipping Sticks" (aka thin pretzel sticks). My husband picked out a Country Apple Pie, which is out of season, of course, but it was his birthday choice. The 20-something clerk said as she rang up the items," Oh I hope you like that pie, I made it this morning." Priceless, and it was a good pie.

Through our travels in the area, I picked up a guide to "farm-fresh products" in the Catskills (from an organization called Pure Catskills). Unfortunately we were a long drive from many of the farms in the Catskills region or those along the Hudson Valley. But we did seek out and find the Three H Ranch in Hudson, NY. We were very much the Brooklyn tourists driving down the road to the farm and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the various chickens, goats, and even alpacas. The young farm hand said, "We only have fresh goat cheese today." No problem...it was the freshest, lightest goat cheese I've ever had. We left talking about whether we could raise chickens in our own backyard or community garden!

It would have been great to find more places (the guide lists hundreds), but it was hard for our city-temperaments to put up with the required hours and hours of driving. Luckily so many family farms make their way to the city to sell their wares at the farmer's markets, grocery stores, and restaurants.

P.S. Stewart's was not all bad. It was definitely the local meeting place and they had fantastic, inexpensive local ice cream. (The store started as an ice cream shop in the 1920s). We found a new family, favorite flavor, too: "Crumbs Along the Mohawk." It is a non-chocolate version of Cookies and Cream made with Graham crackers and caramel. My strictly non-chocolate son loved it.)

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