SAVOR THE SEASON: Harvest festival focuses on agroforestry
WESTPORT — The Adirondack Harvest Festival broke its attendance record this past Saturday, Sept. 24, attracting about 3,500 people to the Essex County Fairgrounds to help celebrate the harvest season.
“We really lucked out,” said Adirondack Harvest Communication Coordinator Mary Godnick. “The one (sunny) day between rainy monsoon weather.”
As people streamed into the free event, they were asked about where they live. Organizers wanted to get a sense of who was coming, according to Godnick, who organized the festival with co-workers Laurie Davis and Carly Summers. Adirondack Harvest is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, based in Lewis. In return for answering the question, each person was offered a free tote bag.
The poll showed that 57% of attendees came from Essex County, 23% from nearby counties, 7% from other parts of New York state and 3% from Vermont, plus visitors from other states and countries, such as Canada.
This year’s Adirondack Harvest Festival theme was “Agroforestry & Forest Farming,” which was supported by the types of workshops held throughout the afternoon. Titles included “ADK Tree Propagation Workshop” with Alex Caskey of Barred Owl Brook Farm; “Bird Friendly Maple” with Zachary Boerman of the Audubon Society; “Shiitake Log Inoculation” with Adam Wild of the Uihlein Maple Research Forest; and “Wild Woodland Plants” with Jane Desotelle of Underwood Herbs and the Plattsburgh Botanical Sanctuary.
One of the goals of the festival is to educate the public about local agriculture.
“One of the things that makes small farms in the Adirondacks unique is that there’s a really big focus on sustainable agriculture and working with the wild lands that surround farms,” Godnick said. “There’s a big trend of farmers around here using their forests and the wild lands around them to their benefit, and so we wanted to highlight that unique quality of the farms around here.”
More than 40% of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park is owned and protected by the state of New York as Forest Preserve, and much of the private land is protected by the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which is administered by the Adirondack Park Agency.
Adirondack Harvest also serves farm country inside and outside the park’s boundaries: the counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties. Smaller parts of other counties are participating members, such as Herkimer, Oneida, Saratoga and Washington.
Needless to say, there is a lot of woodland in and around North Country farms.
“We’re all used to the image of the farmer being a man in overalls standing in front of a red barn with a pitchfork,” Godnick said. “We kind of wanted to show how the wildness kind of plays a part in the farming in the Adirondacks.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines agroforestry as “the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic and social benefits.”
In order for a management practice to be called agroforestry, the USDA says it must satisfy the four “i”s: intentional; intensive; integrated; and interactive.
There are five categories of agroforestry recognized in the U.S.: alley cropping (planting crops between rows of trees to provide income while the trees mature); forest farming (growing food, herbal, botanical or decorative crops under a forest canopy); silvopasture (combining trees with livestock and forage on one piece of land); riparian forest buffers (natural or reestablished areas along rivers and streams made up of trees, shrubs and grasses); and windbreaks (sheltering crops, animals, buildings and soil from wind, snow, dust and odors).
The USDA defines forest farming as “the cultivation of high-value crops under the protection of a managed tree canopy.”
Maple syrup operations are an example of forest farming in the North Country. This year, New York was once again ranked second in maple syrup production in the U.S.– behind Vermont — producing 845,000 gallons (31%) above the 2021 production.
There are also woodland crops grown under a tree canopy, called non-timber forest products. They include ginseng, shiitake or other mushrooms and decorative ferns — sold for medicinal, culinary and ornamental uses.
“Forest farming can provide shorter-term income while high-quality trees are being grown for wood or other tree products,” the USDA states on its website.