WESTPORT - Agriculture and tourism account for a large part of economic activity in Essex County, and one organization has been working to integrate the two.
Adirondack Harvest, an initiative begun by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, has been promoting products made at local farms and making it easier for people to access those products.
"Our main purpose is to facilitate the connection between the farmers/processors and the consumers, that being the restaurants, the stores, and the general public of the North Country," explained Adirondack Harvest coordinator Laurie Davis.
The main tool used in that endeavor is the organization's Web site, www.adirondackharvest.com. There, anyone can find extensive information on the 400-plus members, about half of which are producers. An interactive map allows people to find farms, farmers markets, and even restaurants that utilize local produce.
"I think it's a great organization;" said Tom Tucker of Tucker Farms, a fifth-generation vegetable and potato farm in Saranac Lake; "just the way they pull everybody together and coordinate what is grown where."
Though Tucker Farms does most of its business through large distributors instead of local retail sales, Tucker said participation in Adirondack Harvest has given he and his family a lot more opportunities when it comes to selling what they grow.
Another way Adirondack Harvest promotes local farm products is through the many farm tours it offers throughout the year. The events allow both visitors and local residents to get an intimate look at farm production.
"Getting them onto the farms really helps them remember where the food comes from," said Davis, "and a lot of people are interested in it."
At Tucker Farms, that fit in perfectly with their long tradition of agri-tourism. With their farm stand and corn maze, the farm has opened itself to tours for several years.