SUMMER 2022 TRIP – At one time, the property was a dairy farm, nestled on 70 sprawling, verdant acres in southern Schoharie County.
It’s now a thriving cider house that pays homage to the land’s agricultural history, while showing how a farmhouse turned into a family gathering place where people gather to drink, eat, listen to music and admire a breathtaking view.
For co-owner Elisabeth Van Houten, who grew up on the Gilboa property and whose family has farmed there for more than 200 years, the land was the perfect place for Rockland Cider Works, even if it took time to realize.
“We decided to put the property on the market,” recalls Van Houten. “He stayed there for six months. Every time we went to visit the state, [my husband] was like, ‘We should start an orchard here. We should buy it. ”
Rockland Cider Works opened on July 4th and has been a huge success, attracting people from near and far. It is the upstate sister cider house of Rockland Cider Works in Orangeburg, the upstate community where Elisabeth’s husband Darin Van Houten is from.
“Schoharie County is a hidden gem and Gilboa is a hidden gem, and our cider house is a hidden gem,” Van Houten said. “It’s a jewel inside a jewel inside a jewel.”
And the summer holiday season is a privileged time to discover the many gems of the Schoharie Valley.
The scenic rural county is home to a growing number of farms open to the public and provides a glimpse of the diversity of agriculture in upstate New York.
It’s home to new breweries, cider houses, wineries and distilleries, breathtaking scenery, trails and parks, pretty villages with lovely shops, first-class restaurants and a host of seasonal roadside farmers’ markets. .
“You can drive about five miles in any direction and you’ll see farmers markets where produce is grown,” said Tonda Dunbar, owner of Middleburgh Winery.
There are also larger and better-known tourist attractions, such as the Howe Caverns, the more whimsical Secret Caverns and the Iroquois Museum, as well as more obscure destinations such as the Gilboa Museum, which contains some of the oldest fossils of trees in the world. The Creekside Flea Market, held every Sunday from April to October on State Road 145 in Middleburgh, has become a regional attraction.
“Schoharie County gives you the opportunity to catch your breath,” said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corporation, which operates the tourism website VisitSchoharieCounty.com.
One off-the-beaten-track spot offering guests respite from the hustle and bustle is Empty Pockets Ranch in Cobleskill.
Like Rockland Cider Works, Empty Pockets is a former dairy farm reinvigorated by an entrepreneurial family with a new vision.
Empty Pockets started small, with 15 chickens and a few blueberries, but has grown considerably, and visitors will now find fresh produce and flowers, soap and bath products made from the farm’s herd of dairy sheep, a petting zoo and, starting on Memorial Day weekend, pony rides.
Special farm events are particularly popular, including a summer solstice celebration on June 18; an “Agriculture Day” on July 2 with games and prizes; and a Sunflower Festival on September 3.
Lori Davis, owner of Empty Pockets, said the loss of income caused by COVID-19 has forced her to get creative.
“We decided, since everything was closed and people were eager to do things, to open the farm to the public,” said Davis, a Long Island native and SUNY Cobleskill graduate. “You have to reinvent and see what will work. … I think a lot of farms find that the way to get people here is to open their farms.
She added: “It’s not just the tourists who come. We have many local and regular customers who live just down the street.
For the first big farm event, in 2020, Davis and his family planted 10,000 sunflowers, set up picnic tables outside and invited people to come pick their own sunflowers. The result? Thousands of visitors. This year’s festival will be even bigger, with 50,000 sunflowers.
Those interested in upstate agriculture may want to attend this year’s Family Farm Day on August 27. Now in its 10th year, the event gives people the opportunity to visit between 40 and 60 farms in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties.
“A lot of people don’t know much about farming, and they want to go out to the farms and see what’s going on,” said Jessica Holmes, agriculture and horticulture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Schoharie Counties. of Otsego, which sponsors Family Farm Day.
Another highlight is the Schoharie County Beverage Trail, a self-guided tour of seven of the county’s craft beverage facilities.
“You could spend an entire weekend traveling to beverage producers,” said Darin Van Houten, co-owner of Beverage Trail member Rockland Cider Works. “There’s live music and food trucks.”
“Each producer has their own type of flavor,” said Dunbar, whose Middleburgh Winery is also a stop on the Beverage Trail.
Schoharie County has two other trails that showcase the county’s rural character: the Quilt Barn Trail, a self-guided tour of colorful quilt blocks displayed on homes, businesses, and barns; and the Schoharie County Eagle Trail, a birding route that celebrates the county’s thriving population of bald eagles.
One of the viewing spots on the trail is Mine Kill State Park, which overlooks the two large reservoirs of the New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Energy Project.
At Mine Kill, visitors will find fishing, boating and kayaking, disc golf, an Olympic size pool, wading pool, diving pool and hiking. The 350-mile long path from New York to Thacher Park in Albany County passes through Mine Kill. A short but steep hike leads to the spectacular Mine Kill Falls, which cascade 80 feet through a narrow gorge.
Perhaps the most popular and well-known family hike in Schoharie County is the Vroman Nose near Middleburgh, a 1.5 mile loop trail that leads to a flat summit with spectacular views over the Schoharie Valley.
For those who live and work here, the appeal of this small, rural county is clear.
“You can escape the craziness of Schoharie County,” Harrington said.
“You can breathe and relax, and enjoy the outdoors,” said Darin Van Houten. “It’s just wonderful.”
Travel 2022: on the way to summer
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Categories: Life and Arts, Summer trip 2022