As I bicycle around the Hudson Valley, I always revel in the breathtaking scenery – glimpses of the Hudson River, the Catskills, the quiet backroads, and the beauty of farm fields and orchards. I feel an added sense of pride when I pass farmland that has been permanently protected by Scenic Hudson. Over the past 20-plus years, we’ve preserved 18,000 acres on more than 130 farms, often ensuring the viability of family operations that provide healthy produce, sweet cider, pumpkins, and the farm stands and markets characteristic of the region.
In past years, I’ve joined hundreds on Scenic Hudson’s Farmland Cycling Tour in northern Dutchess and Columbia County, a rite of autumn in the Hudson Valley. On this crisp fall September morning cyclists enjoy the beauty of the region’s countryside. It’s always a thrill to meet so many biking enthusiasts who value our work. Even more important, the event directly connects me and fellow participants with farms Scenic Hudson has partnered to preserve.
Sadly, to ensure everyone’s safety, this year’s Farmland Cycling Tour will be a virtual event that embraces the spirit of the occasion. More about that in a moment.
Conserving the rolling fields and orchards that cyclists pass would not have been possible without farm families committed to making their land permanently available for agriculture. This commitment is essential both for securing the valley’s rural charm – which attracts so many tourists – and for ensuring that residents of the region and New York City can rely on a stable supply of fresh food reaching their tables. The latter is even more critical during these challenging times, when all of us strive to stay healthy.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on farmers, whose operations traditionally depend on so many unforeseen variables – drought, late frosts, pests, severe storms… Now, they’re also suffering from a drop-off in orders from restaurants, schools and other institutions. You can help support their livelihoods by sustaining your membership in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, shopping at your community’s farmers market, and visiting local farmstands and u-pick orchards. It’s a win-win.
The Outdoor Adventures section of our website features an extensive lineup of farms throughout the valley that welcome customers. Right now, the branches of local apple trees are sagging with fruit – fyi, New York produces more apples than any state except Washington – and orchards have instituted policies to ensure visitors stay distanced and safe. As family outings go, nothing beats apple picking.
While we can’t gather for an actual Farmland Cycling Tour, we are planning some exciting opportunities for you to experience the essence of the event – either by pedaling one of the tour routes on your own or by riding on a stationary bike at home. Either way, you’ll get a good workout and learn from farmers themselves why we host this fall classic.
I’ll update you soon with the details of these and other inspired October events that support local farmers and connect us all with the harvest season. It’s guaranteed to gear you up for the tour’s 2021 return.
Stay safe and stay strong.