The Ontario County Agricultural “Agventure” Trail

Children have fun on the agricultural trail, especially when strawberries are involved. Photo courtesy Heritage Marketing

Which of these were invented or perfected in Ontario County? A) cabbage harvester; B) Traminette grapes and wine; C) Empire and Northern Spy apples; D) grape pies; E) All of the above; F) none of the above.

Answer: If you’ve spent any time in the area, you know it’s: E) all of the above.

It’s these impressive facts, plus many more, that provided the inspiration behind the creation of the Ontario County Agricultural Adventure Trail. Two years in the making, the “Agventure Trail” is a celebration of all things agricultural in Ontario County.  A little over 100 miles long, the trail starts in the northwest part of the county in Victor, winds south around Canandaigua Lake to Naples, east to Seneca Lake and Geneva, and finally west back across the county to end in Farmington.

As a helpful way of organizing the trail, the stops are divided into four different categories. “Attractions” are open to the public and include stores, markets and farms. “Look for This” includes farms, cobblestone houses and other things of agricultural interest. Not that a dairy farmer wouldn’t mind the help during milking, but these stops are generally not open to the public. They’re designated because of their agricultural significance or just because they are interesting. “Made Locally” are mostly farms and farm markets and “Wine and Dine” are wineries and Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty-affiliated restaurants.

The Agventure Trail starts, both chronologically and geographically, at the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor. For hundreds of years prior to the 1600s, Ganondagan was the home of the Seneca Indians, the area’s first farmers.  You can tour a full-size replica of a 17th-century Seneca Bark Longhouse, walk miles of self-guided trails, or climb the mesa where a huge granary stored hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn.

From there, the trail winds through Ionia to Lazy Acre Alpacas in Bloomfield. Raising alpacas is an example of one of the newest forms of farming in Ontario County. Small cousins of camels and llamas, alpacas are known for the quality of their fleece. Lazy Acres owner Mark Gilbride, who might be considered the modern gentleman farmer, describes the area as perfect for raising alpacas. “The summers are not too hot, the winters are usually not too cold or long, and there is plenty of high quality pasture grass available, which is their main diet.”

The trail then runs west on historic Routes 5 & 20 towards Canandaigua to Vintage Tracks Museum, the home of over 200 tractors and farm implements dating back to 1918. From there, the trail runs south through the charming hamlet of Cheshire towards Naples. Traveling down Route 21 along Canandaigua Lake, you will notice that grape vines start to replace bales of straw in the fields. The climate along the lake makes this area well suited to growing grapes, and, indeed, viniculture is one of the forms of agriculture in the region that has exploded in recent years. One grape that is being grown in the area is the Traminette grape. Developed locally at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, the Traminette grape is the offspring of the famed Gewurztraminer grape. John Brahm, owner of Arbor Hill Grapery, noted “when I first tasted the experimental grape in 1985, I immediately felt that the grape had the attributes that would be perfect for our Finger Lakes terrior.”

Taking “the high road” (County Road 12) to Naples from Arbor Hill provides you with one of the more breathtaking views of Canandaigua Lake. Once in Naples, zthere are several stops to consider including Widmer Wine Cellars, Jerome’s U-Pick, and Mountain Rise Organics. And no trip to Naples would be complete without a stop at Monica’s to get one of her famous grape pies.

The trail then follows Route 245 east out of Naples through Rushville and Gorham, eventually reaching Seneca Lake. Route 14 will take you up the lake to Geneva and The Pier House Restaurant at the Ramada Inn.  As if the excellent food on their new menu wasn’t enough, The Pier House is a member of Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, an initiative that promotes the products of the Finger Lakes by linking the local farms and wineries with restaurants to provide patrons with a uniquely local dining experience.

At this point in the tour, you will have to make a decision, as there are three potential routes to take. One route goes north to Route 96 and west through Phelps, known for its cabbage production. If you happen to be traveling through Phelps during the first week of August, don’t miss the chance to stop at the famous Phelps Sauerkraut Festival.

A second route to consider is Route 4 through Seneca Castle and Hopewell. This route will take you past Pedersen Farms, a grower of hops for local breweries. Once a leading specialty crop in the area, this agricultural product disappeared from the landscape over 50 years ago because of disease, insects and prohibition. A glass of Ithaca Beer Company’s Double IPA will dispel any doubts that local hops are back and have a bright future.

The third route to consider is Routes 5 & 20 through Flint. After you have stopped at Red Jacket Orchards for a bag of Empire or Northern Spy (what else?) apples, you can visit Abbey Farm and experience a Victorian-era farmstead.

No matter which route you choose, the trip back west through the county should definitely include a stop at Willow Pond Aqua Farms, where you can stroll through their water garden and see yet another type of agriculture, where waterplants and fish are raised.

With over 50 stops, you will probably have to pick and choose where you want to visit on your daytrip. Regardless of your choices, the Agventure Trail is a great way to explore Ontario County’s abundant agricultural attractions, sights and history.

For Agventure Trail guides or additional information, call 1-877-FUN-IN-NY (877-386-4669) or visit www.VisitFingerLakes.com. And soon, look for The Agventure Trail on-line at www.FingerLakesTrails.com, for an exciting new way of looking at our beautiful region.


by Don Hudson