The state’s Taste NY Culinary Tour in the Hudson Valley was conducted Monday by Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball.
The tour provided more than 30 leading restaurateurs and chefs from the Hudson Valley, New York City, Western New York, Central New York and Capital Regions a first-hand look at the quality and diversity of New York agriculture in the region.
Following two successful Taste NY Culinary Tours in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island in August, Monday’s tour included visits to three farms and processors across Dutchess and Ulster counties. As a result of the three tours, nearly 100 chefs and restaurant owners from across the state have been introduced to some of New York state’s best agricultural food and beverage producers.
The Culinary Tours were organized following the Governor’s Farm to Table Upstate-Downstate Summit in an effort to connect restaurateurs with regional producers and growers, and highlight the many opportunities for the sourcing of local foods.
The Hudson Valley region is known for its strengths in the agricultural industry — its rich soils, abundant water supply and proximity to metropolitan markets.Dutchess County agriculture comprises over 170,000 acres, one third of its total acreage), producing $44.8 million in market value products, a large part of the county’s $438 million tourism industry.
Agriculture is also the county’s third largest employer.
Ulster County also has a long agricultural history and is home to a diverse array of agricultural enterprises including fruit and vegetable production as well as dairy and egg.
The three stops on the Hudson Valley Culinary Tour included Hepworth Farms in Milton, Ulster County (vegetables), Bad Seed Cider in Highland, Ulster County (cider), and Hudson Valley Fresh in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County (dairy farm).
Hepworth Farms is a seventh generation family farm that produces more than 400 varieties of vegetables using organic practices on its 250 acres of farmland. Produce is sold to restaurants, processors and at farmers’ markets, and the farm works with several local distributors to sell its vegetables in the wholesale marketplace.
While at Hepworth Farms, participants had the opportunity to tour the packinghouse and get a firsthand look at operations.
Participants also visited Bad Seed Cider in Highland, which makes its cider with 100 percent fresh pressed apples, some of which are grown at neighboring Wilklow Orchards. Manhattan Beer sells the cider wholesale throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City area.
At Stormfield Swiss in Wappingers Falls, one of the dairy farms in the Hudson Valley Fresh cooperative, participants toured the farm, learned about the dairy cooperative enterprise, and sampled various dairy products. Hudson Valley Fresh produces whole, skim, low-fat and chocolate milk along with half and half, heavy cream, yogurt, ice cream mix and sour cream. Milk is locally sourced, processed and distributed to local businesses.
“We feel it is important to provide these tours so that the consumer has the opportunity to see firsthand where their product comes from. They also see the care that goes into a product which they use every day," said Jennifer DeForest, owner of Stormfield Swiss, one of nine farms producing Hudson Valley Fresh milk.
Amy Hepworth, owner of Hepworth Farms, said, “Anytime anyone in the food industry knows more about agriculture as it pertains to their food and food supply, the better. It’s very important for chefs and others to understand agriculture first hand and this is what this opportunity presents.Chefs influence people," said Amy Hepworth, owner of Hepworth Farms.
The Taste NY Culinary Tour concluded with a tour of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. A reception to kick off Hudson Valley Restaurant Week capped off the evening with more than 300 guests.