A Seasonal Celebration of Regional Agriculture
Garlic: A Pungent Herb Considered variously as an herb, spice, or vegetable, the garlic bulb has a distinctive odor and taste that is an important addition to a variety of cuisines. A nearly essential ingredient in many pasta and tomato sauce dishes, it goes well in chile and many soups. Grilled meats, and especially roast leg of lamb, are enhanced by using fresh garlic in preparation. Garlic adds zing to most stir fry vegetable dishes as well. Diehard garlic lovers may even like garlic ice cream.
California dominated the domestic garlic market for many years, but now, much garlic comes from Mexico, Argentina, and increasingly, China. These countries often have few restrictions on pesticide use for growing such crops. They certainly can not provide as fresh a product as is grown by local farmers for local markets.
To avoid the chemicals, and to support local agriculture, what better way than to buy locally produced garlic? Or better yet, grow your own. Much information is presented at garlic festivals home gardeners, as well as all aspects of preservation and use in cooking.
Central New York is blessed with a climate that favors the production of garlic. Locally, garlic is usually planted in the fall. It then passes through several weeks of winter dormancy, sprouting in early spring to be harvested in July or August. To highlight this increasingly important local product, in many areas garlic growers and enthusiasts have come together to host garlic festivals. In New York State these are usually held in late summer or early fall.
Mohawk Valley Garlic and Herb Festival
Canal Place at Little Falls is the site of this festival on the second Saturday in September. The 7th annual event was held in 2008. Thirty seven vendors had garlic and other locally grown produce available for sale. Musical entertainment was provided by the Tom Healy Band and Annie & the Hedonists, and many local growers and other food vendors were present. This was an opportunity to meet local garlic growers, purchase varieties of red and white garlic, and enjoy the late summer / early fall day while learning more about garlic.
Festivals like this allow one to meet local farmers face to face, and learn about garlic growing, preservation, and cooking with garlic. According to organizer and local garlic grower Shane Badger, this festival is ideal for helping local farmers and gardeners to improve their production, and educate consumers as well. He and others shared a wealth of knowledge provided in small informal seminars with lots of interaction.
Seasonal Celebration of Local Agriculture
The soil and growing conditions for garlic are ideal in the Mohawk, Sesquehanna, and Hudson River Valleys. Presently, there is not a sufficient ammount of locally grown garlic to supply the needs of large chains like Hannaford or Walmart.
The festival's modest entry fee helps finance efforts to convince more local farmers into growing this tasty crop. Any attempt to improve the production and marketing of regional agriculture is to be commended.
About 3000 people attended this event. There is room for expansion at the site for more growers, vendors, and entertainment. However, many would prefer keeping this type of festival small. If a festival is too large, much of the personal interaction between the farmers, gardeners, and customers can be lost.
Canal Place and Moss Island
The Garlic Festival is held at Canal Place, an historic and arts oriented district of the small city of Little Falls. With steep cliffs of the Mohawk River, Little Falls is a very scenic city providing some picturesque views. The area around Canal Place is home to art galleries, small restaurants and shops, and the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts which provides a film series, occasional live musical performances and educational classes on the arts. This area is also host to a Canal Festival in August.
Lock 17 on the New York State Barge Canal is nearby, formerly part of the old Erie Canal. This was once the highest lift lock in the world.
Also close by is Moss Island, with its rather unique geology of rocky cliffs and potholes. Large portions of rocks on the islands covered by moss, hence its name. There are trails providing nice views of the city and surrounding cliffs. Rock climbing is available with a permit and at one's own risk.
A few miles to the east is the Herkimer Home. This is the 18th century estate of Nicholas Herkimer, the hero of the Battle of Oriskany in August 1777. The city and surrounding countryside has much interesting architecture, including several country churches that date from the late 18th and early 19th century.
Other Garlic Festivals
In August and September, there are other regional garlic festivals in New York State. These includet Sharon Springs and Milford in Otsego County, and a much larger festival at Saugerties in the Hudson Valley. Some of those present at Canal Place thought that the festival at Saugerties is too large, and any growth of the festival in Little Falls be kept small. This would be more manageable and thus retain the small town atmosphere, enhancing the experience for all participants.
While not as well known or economically important as apple or pumpkin festivals, garlic festivals, provide a good way to spend part of a fall weekend, supporting and learning more about regional agriculture in Central New York.
Mohawk Valley Garlic & Herb Festival, Little Falls, NY
Attending above festival in 2008.
7th Annual Sharon Springs Garlic Festival
Colverson, Peter. A Guide to Natural Sites in the Greater Utica Rome Area. Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, NY, Pamphlet, 1998.
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