October means apple harvest time to Wayne County farmers and the locals who enjoy the area’s apple-related festivities. One of the most popular newer traditions is the Annual Apple-Tasting Tour, in its eighth year this season. People can visit several participating growers and markets to sample apples, and rate their flavors, scents, textures and colors. They also can receive a stamp on the official flier, which is available at numerous venues throughout the county. Once the flier bears a stamp from each participating vendor, it can be mailed to the Wayne County Tourism office to be entered in a drawing for a one-night getaway to a local B&B.
Eight years ago, growers and farm market operators developed the tour as a means of boosting agricultural tourism. “We’re known for agriculture, so the apple-tasting tour may bring people out to see farm markets they haven’t seen before,” said Christine Worth, director of the Wayne County Tourism office. Print and television advertising helps get the word out to Wayne and surrounding counties.
Growth of the Tour
At first, the tour lasted for just a weekend; however, as business participation grew, an entire month was allotted for the tour “to give people an opportunity to get out to the markets,” Worth said. “It allows people to hit all 15 places.” Expanding the tour’s timeline also prevents a rainy weekend from spoiling the fun.
Many of the businesses provide refreshments, door prizes and give-aways to attract even more potential customers. The event draws tourists from places such as Skaneateles, Binghamton and Pennsylvania.
“People look forward to it every year,” said Lorraine Mason, owner of Mason Farms & Farm Market in Williamson. “It’s fun to be part of it.”
Sue Smith, co-owner of Orchard View Country Farm Market in North Rose, said that “it’s a big thing every year.”
The tour allows the participating farms to highlight what makes their businesses different from others in the Wayne County area.
At Mason Farm Market, for example, all of the produce is grown locally in Williamson, if not on the farm itself, and is not shipped in from other areas.
“We want to answer their questions as far as how the produce is grown,” Mason said.
The farm is also Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Certified, meaning that workers use safe farming practices in regard to chemicals. “We might use other ways to detract pests and to get rid of them,” Mason said. “We do trials for Cornell as well. People worry about what pesticides do to the earth and air. We believe in safe farming practices and we were IPM before Cornell become involved, since the late ’70s.”
Variety Is the Word
The farm market offers 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables, greenhouse items (through mid-June), crafts and garden furniture. During the tasting season, Mason also offers a honey bee display with help from a local hive keeper.
Maier’s Mud Acres Farm Market is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink farm markets, selling produce, home-baked goods, crafts, fresh flowers, brown eggs and, during tasting, cider.
Susan Maier, who helps run the business with husband Paul, said that educating is part of what makes Mud Acres stand out.
“I don’t think people realize how many apples are produced out here,” she said. “The tour helps people understand that. Wegman’s doesn’t grow them; it takes a farmer. I try to tell kids that.”
Apples are not the only misunderstood item. “Kids think eggs that are brown are spoiled!” Maeir said. “I tell them, ‘No, they’re not!’”
Sweet treats like ice cream, fudge and kettle corn make Long Acre Farms in Macedon stand out. During the tasting tour, apple items such as cider, apple pie, cider slushies and candied apples enhance the country store’s year-round offerings of produce and gifts. A corn maze and hayrides boost the fun. Owner Joan Allen said that the agritourism area for kids “gives us a chance to educate them.”
In addition to the regular in-house baked goods, lunches, produce, crafts, and pre-packaged food items, Burnap’s Farm Market in Sodus boasts a wooden train, corn maze, haunted house and pick-your-own pumpkins and apples during the tour. Owner Kendra Burnap said that the extra hoopla “brings people here.”
Although few people associate stickers with farm markets, Orchard View Country Farm Market boasts one of the region’s most extensive selections of seasonal, occasional and licensed character stickers, as well as other stationery items.
The market also sells produce, cheese, baked goods, Amish-made indoor and outdoor furniture, decorative lighthouses, gifts, specialty foods, dairy case items, snacks, seasonal plants, mulch and (in season) Christmas trees.
During the tour, Orchard View also offers fall and Halloween activities for children and those young at heart: tour the haunted house, ride the Pumpkin Train to the Haunted Village, or explore the Kid’s Tent for children. The market sells hundreds of pumpkins, corn stalks and fanciful Halloween creatures for taking some of the spooky fun home.
More Apples and Cider
The Apple Shed is the place to go for fresh-pressed cider during the tasting tour. What could be better than munching fresh fried doughnuts and taking a hayride past pumpkins and glorious autumn color? On a regular basis, the market also sells produce, baked goods, crafts, and offers farm animals to visit.
“There are not too many farm markets that press their own cider,” said Jessica Wells of her farm market’s claim to fame. “Quite a few use ours, actually!”
Hunnybear’s Market and Garden Center in Marion cooks up favorites such as apple crisp from family recipes, as well as offering local cider, the annual pumpkin contest, and other fall activities during the tour. The market’s year-round offerings include produce, plants, gifts, syrup, salsa, ice cream, and, of course, honey.
“I hope people walk away remembering Hunnybear’s,” said owner Tim Stanton. “That’s why we offer the special activities.”
Also in Marion, Morgan’s Farm Market plies guests with apple butter, apple sauce and autumn fun for the tasting tour. The Family Fun Festival, which coincides with the tour, features wagon rides, face painting, pony rides, and craftsmen such as a chainsaw carver.
But Morgan’s is about more than fun and games. The farm also grows a tremendous variety of apples, including newer ones such as Honey Crisp and N.Y. 674.
“It’s good-tasting and doesn’t brown,” said Ned Morgan, owner of the farm. “It stays white indefinitely, making it great for kids’ lunches and salads. It’s a numbered variety still not named. We were the first to plant it in any quantity because we were a Cornell host site for a yield trial on that variety.”
The farm has been part of the Apple Tasting Tour since its inception, and has offered year-round samples since the third year of the tour.
Like many apple farms in the county, Morgan’s is a family farm; however, Ned takes it one step further to make his employees feel part of the Morgan clan.
“A large part of my harvest crew for apples comes back each year,” he said. “Last year, we put up a small Haitian flag in the farm market with a sign that lets people know many of the apples are picked by Haitian pickers. I feel a lot of gratitude toward them and I want people to know that.”
Opening her own farm market was a dream come true for Debbie Delyser, owner of the Corner Market in Williamson. But that doesn’t mean she’s a newbie to produce.
“My husband has been a potato farmer in Marion,” she said, “selling to Wegman’s for 30 years. Potatoes aren’t very glamorous for a market. Not many people know we have a wholesale business or that there are a lot of potatoes grown in Wayne County. He does the farming, I wanted a market, so the farming pays for the market.”
The Corner Market has operated for six years, selling produce, baked goods, gift items and in-season flowers. Delyser believes that the tour “brings in more customers, mostly city people who come out. I hope they walk away thinking, ‘What a nice place. We ought to go again sometime.’”
Heluva Good Cheese in Sodus offers gifts and a large variety of cheeses and sauces. For the apple tour, the store promotes the featured fruit along with cheese samples, complimentary flavors that visitors enjoy together. Salsas, mustard and pretzels and other specialty products are also available to sample.
Store manager Cindy Witzer hopes tour visitors remember the shop for the holidays, because customers can sample and select mail-order items from the store or take home baskets and gifts for giving.
“We’re a unique cheese and gift shop in that we offer the complete Heluva line,” she said.
Whatever markets and shops prove to be your favorite, there are surely plenty of homespun venues during apple harvest time.
by Deborah Myers
Deborah Myers grew up in Wolcott, Wayne County, where she now lives. As a freelance writer, her work appears in a variety of local and national periodicals and in Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, 2nd Ed. (2005, Writer’s Digest Books).