As a new mother and health-enthusiast, I am always excited about organic produce… Just not always about the price tag.
I’ve written at length about the importance of buying seasonal fruits and vegetables and price is definitely a big reason why, but I mainly encourage it because of nutritional value and taste difference (the produce ripens in the sun instead of being transported and refrigerated for days!), less GMOs (there is nothing natural about mangos for sale in the winter), and the fact that you are helping out small local farms who need it a lot more than giant retailers. As a customer, keep in mind you are also getting a lot more bang for your buck: seasonal produce is much cheaper because of the abundance of it.
What I love most about visiting local farms and farmers’ markets in the summer is really seeing the difference between store-bought produce and the real kind, grown and ripened under the hot summer sun. The aromas, the colors… The two are just incomparable!
In Westchester County, we are lucky enough to have a variety of You-Pick programs to choose from and it is a fantastic way to show our kids where our produce comes from (no, it doesn’t just appear on supermarket shelves!) and how to cultivate it.
Although my son is only a year old, I look forward to cherishing these moments with him: picking beans with our bare hands, for example, or sharing a juicy nectarine under the shade of the orchards. I personally think that appreciating moments like these is something we should instill in our children.
Here are 3 local farms you should visit with your family by the end of September (and distance-wise, they’re all an hour or less from Westchester… so no excuses, either!).
Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center is one of my favorite farms in Westchester County. It boasts 3.5 miles of hiking trails and an extensive farm stand and U-Pick program, while also offering numerous classes and programs on sustainable living. They do not use any pesticides and offer produce such as beans, beets, carrots, eggplants, onions, peas, peppers, pumpkins, and tomatoes, as well as fresh eggs, honey, and maple syrup from hives and trees on the farm. They also have chickens and goats and a gorgeous picnic area overlooking the farm property.
Personally, I have always had a wonderful experience exploring Hilltop Hanover Farm — the staff is laid back and passionate about the crops they grow, and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Last year, as our three-month-old napped under the shade of a tree, my husband and I crunched on sweet peppers right in the field (to tell the varieties apart) and picked our own bunches of carrots with the guidance of the farm employees. An unforgettable experience.
Address: 1271 Hanover Street, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Fishkill Farms is the furthest farm from Westchester on this list, but oh, so worth the hour drive. I’ve never tasted more delicious peaches and nectarines than the ones I picked there last summer! Fishkill Farms has been running for nearly 100 years and is now a diversified, ecological farm with many new features. They have 60 acres of apples (50 varieties!), 4 acres of pears, 20 acres of mixed vegetables (some of them unique like miniature eggplants and sweet Japanese turnips), and 17 acres of fruits and berries. They also tend a flock of 1,000 pasture-raised laying hens! Another reason to love them? All of their crops (except for apples) are 100% organic – they usually do not spray them at all.
Address: 9 Fishkill Farm Road, Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
Phone: (845) 897-4377
New Yorkers flock to Harvest Moon Farm for its Fall Festival, which starts as early as Labor Day: apple picking galore, live bluegrass music, fresh cider and donuts, apple canons, pony rides, and lots and lots of artisan stands (the fresh lemonade and BBQ brick oven pizza are incredible!). Although it’s a bummer their apples aren’t 100% organic (they do, however, use the most environmentally conscious sprays available), all of the vegetables on the farm are grown using organic fertilizers and pest controls and they also sell vegetable-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free turkeys during the fall as well as 100% grass fed beef from Highland Cattle, fresh free-range eggs, local honey, local dairy products, and maple syrup year round. Harvest Moon is worth visiting this summer before the crowds make their way there on and after Labor Day.
Address: 130 Hardscrabble Road, North Salem, NY 10560
Phone: (914) 485-1210