Fall is here and so is New York's apple picking season.
According to the New York Apple Association, this year's crops are sweeter due to great summer we had. Sunlight helps stimulate the sugar production in apples and this year we had a lot of sunshine.
New York State is home to almost 700 apple orchards that produce over 25 million bushels of apples every year. The most popular apples in this State are the McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Rome, Cortland and Idared, according to the New York Apple Association. Traveling around Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, motorists will see signs for farms that boast apple orchards and produce stands.
New York’s agriculture industry is a mainstay of our economy -- from fertile farmlands to the world-class food processing operations in our cities and villages. Farms provide thousands of jobs in our communities. Our communities are stronger, safer and better because of farms and farm families. Agritourism is another great way to bring people to farms and educate the public about the farm industry. Many of these farms offer tours in the fall, fun activities such as hay rides and corn mazes, and have produce for sale. Going to these farms help the local agriculture economy and is a great family adventure.
To help you find these locations, the State Department of Agriculture & Markets has a "Farm Fresh Guide" on its website, www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/FFGSearch.asp. The website will tell you what interesting farms are in the area when you are out driving around looking at foliage. The search results tell you the name of the farm, the address, the growing season and what other activities the property offers, such as petting zoos and horse rides. You may also obtain a copy of the Farm Fresh Guide by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll-free at (800) 554-4501.
I still have two tourist guides available: Senator Farley's Guide to Parks and Outdoor Recreation and Senator Farley's Guide to Historic Sites and Museums in Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga and Schenectady Counties. Some of the places in the guide stay open into the fall, but please err on the side of caution and call ahead for hours and directions. For copies of my free publications, call my office at 455-2181 (Albany), 843-2188 (Amsterdam) or 762-3733 (Johnstown). I also encourage you to contact the local chambers of commerce for events and activities in the area.
This time of year is also popular among "leaf-peepers," people who enjoy seeing the tree leaves change colors. One of the reasons New York State has such terrific fall colors is that it has a wide variety of broad-leaved trees. Sugar Maple, American Beech, American Hornbeam, American Mountain Ash, Bitternut Hickory, and Black Walnut are a few of the many that change into beautiful and bright browns, oranges and reds.
New York State has a toll-free phone number that gives consumers weekly updates on the foliage. Call (800) CALL-NYS (225-5697) to learn where the best "leaf-peeping" spots are. Generally, the peak times for our region is the last two weeks in September and the first two weeks in October.