SAVOR THE SEASON: Adirondack Harvest pivots to help connect more people to local food

Winter squash cures in the greenhouse at North Country School Tuesday, Sept. 22. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LEWIS — Adirondack Harvest helps people find farm-fresh food and local products, which has become more of a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, as more and more North Country residents and visitors were connecting with local food sources, the News caught up with Carly Summers, the agricultural resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, which runs the Adirondack Harvest website (https://adirondackharvest.com).

“I think there has been a lot of awareness out there that local food resiliency is very important, relying on these small farming businesses being here,” Summers said. “And I think people are appreciating them in a new way.”

What Summers was seeing — as far as people connecting to their local food sources — continued through the summer and is still going strong as the harvest comes in.

Laurie Davis, who runs the CCE office in Lewis and administrates Adirondack Harvest, runs a small farm with her husband Mike, Harvest Hill Farm in Willsboro. And the only crop they’re selling this year — seed garlic — is in high demand. Normally, they sell a little each year. During the pandemic, however, she’s seen a huge increase in sales, shipping garlic as far away as Anchorage, Alaska and Reno, Nevada.

“It was crazy the amount of orders we’ve received,” Davis said.

They sold out of garlic by Sept. 6.

Like many businesses and organizations, Adirondack Harvest had to pivot this year, as it could not hold its annual Adirondack Harvest Festival in late September at the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport. So on Saturday, Sept. 19, a “free-range” festival was held, where people were invited to celebrate local food at several locations and at home.

“We’re really happy overall (with the turnout),” Davis said. “We just threw it out there.”

The festival began with a Champlain Area Trails hike to the Viall’s Crossing trail in the morning. There were eating options at the Ausable Brewing Company in Keeseville and Ledge Hill Brewery in Westport. There was a scavenger hunt. There were virtual farm tours from the festival page link on the Adirondack Harvest website.

And at the end of the day, there was an outdoor screening of the documentary “Inhabit” under a tent at the Whallonsburg Grange.

Even with the cold temperatures — reaching 38 degrees by the end of the movie — sales of hot cider and ice cream from Farmer’s Cone Creamery were brisk.

“I was impressed with the people who stayed,” Davis said. “We had down jackets on, sheep skin throws over us.”

In the spring, Adirondack Harvest created a special COVID page on its website to connect consumers with local food producers. Here you can find consumer resources, including pickup/delivery for local food and groceries; farms that have community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs; restaurant take-out and delivery options; special events; and farmers markets.

This page — and the Adirondack Harvest website overall — have seen a dramatic increase in traffic compared to the previous year.

“It could be because people were looking for how to buy local food,” Summers said. “I’m hoping that’s what it was. Because that’s what we’re trying to do, is link people to local food and help them learn more about it.”