State launches 6 cuisine trails in the Adirondacks

State Sen. Betty Little and state Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball present Ernest Hohmeyer, of the Adirondack Cuisine Trail Association, an official document proclaiming the establishment of the Adirondack Lakes Cuisine Trail. The presentation was made Friday at Tucker Farms in Gabriels. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

GABRIELS — The rain finally stopped long enough for the Tucker family to finish doing two things later this week: harvest potatoes and help launch six New York state cuisine trails.

The sun came out Friday, shining on the colorful fall foliage and Great Adirondack Corn Maze in the back of the Tucker Farms property on Hobart Road. With the fading stalks of corn as a backdrop, a wagon full of ripe pumpkins on stage right, wafting smoke from a nearby fire pit on stage left, and yellow and purple mums on hay bales at their feet, state, regional and local officials launched six new cuisine trails in Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties.

During this stop along the Adirondack Lakes Cuisine Trail — Saranac Lake, Gabriels, Paul Smiths, Lake Clear and Tupper Lake — it was time for a farmer at the home of Tucker Taters to take center stage.

“Where is the guest of honor?” a woman asked.

“That’s right,” Tom Tucker said, heading to the podium. “Time to go to work here, and I don’t mean dig potatoes.”

Tom Tucker of Tucker Farms in Gabriels makes a brief speech Friday during the announcement of the Adirondack Lakes Cuisine Trail. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

Tom and his brothers, Steve and Dick, and his son Ben continue to work the land. The family has been farming this property since 1864, and Ben is the sixth generation. They predominantly grow potatoes, but they also have the corn maze and they sell vegetables to local restaurants.

“We’ve chosen this site as a family because of the elevation and distance and beautiful area,” Tom said. “I’m pretty fortunate that my ancestors chose this spot to be a great view for a farm. I’m not sure if they were thinking that 150 years ago because I’m sure if it was as stony as it is now, they probably didn’t choose this site by that.”

State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball — a potato farmer himself from Schoharie — took in the view, with the High Peaks across the road and the sun and corn to his back.

“If you look around at this view, you can see why we’re here today and why we’re talking about the intersection of agriculture and tourism,” Ball said. “Usually as a farmer, when you hear of agritourism, it is a bit of a commentary of where we are as a society today when visiting a farm is a tourist event,” Ball said.

Ball said that only about 1 percent of Americans are farmers.

Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna talks to the crowd at Tucker Farms in Gabriels while next to state Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball and Lake Clear Lodge co-owner Ernest Hohmeyer, of the Adirondack Cuisine Trail Association. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

“And we feed the other 99 percent. So this idea of agritourism is actually an opportunity to connect the dots, two very important communities that need to know each other. And the good news is that our consumers are pretty anxious to understand who we are, where we are, what we do and how we do it in agriculture.”

Ball and a group of officials made the cuisine trail announcement at three sites Friday, first at Mace Chasm Farm (Boquet Valley Cuisine Trail) in Keeseville, then at Rulfs Orchard (North Country Cuisine Trail) in Peru and finally at Tucker Farms. Members of the Adirondack Cuisine Trail Association made some of the stops, including Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County board Vice President Jay White, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna, Alyssa Senecal of the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, and Ernest Hohmeyer of Hohmeyer’s Lake Clear Lodge. State Sen. Betty Little also spoke at the events.

“We are really standing in an area here that was one of the original destinations of the Adirondack Park,” Hohmeyer said. “Our region was know as the great connector.”

Over the years, however, the Gabriels, Paul Smiths, Upper Saranac Lake and Lake Clear corridor lost that destination capability, Hohmeyer said. One reason was the hamlets’ remoteness.

“Our struggle was we don’t have a downtown, and so we came up with this idea of doing themes based on a trail,” Hohmeyer said. “The trail is vitally important to us because once again it brings that great connector back together again.”

The new cuisine trails were created by the Adirondack Cuisine Trail Association, which includes members of Cornell Cooperative Extension, the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Paul Smith’s College and ROOST.

ROOST promotes Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties, and McKenna says the creation of six new cuisine trails in the Adirondacks is timely.

“In making that intersection, as you said, commissioner, between tourism and agriculture is even more important now as the demographics of travelers are changing,” McKenna said, adding that a recent study by The Wild Center in Tupper Lake found some interesting facts about the traveling habits of the millennial generation.

When asked what would attract millennials more to the Adirondacks, “They identified food as more important than lodging when they make a travel decision,” McKenna said. “They found places to eat first before they found places to lodge.”

When asked what they are interested in the most, 64 percent of the millennials taking the survey said food, wine and breweries and 66 percent said farmers markets.

There are currently 38 culinary trails in New York state, including cuisine trails, beverage trails, a cheese trail, an apple trail and ice cream trails. Information about these trails can be found online at the Taste NY website (https://taste.ny.gov/). On the state level, the Department of Agriculture approved the designations, in coordination with the state Department of Transportation.

The DOT works with the cuisine trail groups to develop the most convenient and logical routes for New York food and beverage enthusiasts on the trails. In turn, officials say, that helps spur sales for local farmers and related agribusinesses. DOT also works with the organizations to determine appropriate locations for signage, ensuring the cuisine trails are easy to follow. Individual trail organizations coordinate fabrication, installation and maintenance of cuisine trail signs under a DOT permit.

“Each area in New York is unique in its geography and climate and its way of attracting tourism,” DOT Assistant Commissioner Sean Hennessey told the crowd at Tucker Farms. “This region is known as a winter wonderland. People from across the country and across the globe come to the Adirondacks to take part as adventure seekers.”

Hennessey then touted the economic impact of tourism on the regional and state economies. More than 12.4 million people visited the Adirondack region last year, he said, with regional tourism generating more than $1.4 billion in direct visitor spending.

The six new cuisine trails in the Adirondack region are the Adirondack Lakes Trail in southern Franklin County; North Country Trail and Champ’s Trail in Clinton County; and Boquet Valley Trail, Champlain Valley Trail and Ausable Valley Trail in Essex County. In all, they represent 83 businesses, which are all marketed on the Taste NY website, trail maps and at the new Adirondack Welcome Center on the Adirondack Northway.

Here are the two new cuisine trails located in the Tri-Lakes region

Ausable Valley Cuisine Trail

Pray’s Family Farms

Asgaard Farm & Dairy

Sugar House Creamery

Taste NY Cafe @ Whiteface Mountain

Cedar Run Bakery & Market

Black Rooster Maple Syrup

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

Green Goddess Natural Foods

Big Mountain Deli

Big Slide Brewery

Blue Line Brewery and Public House

The Great Adirondack Brewing Company

Adirondack Mountain Coffee

Adirondack Lakes Cuisine Trail

AdkCavu Cafe

Campfire Adk Grill & Bar (Hotel Saranac)

Adk Made

The Packbasket @ Paul Smith’s College VIC

The Ganzi @ Paul Smith’s College

The Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat

Knapp’s Trading Post/ Adirondack Perk

Waterside Cafe @ The Wild Center

The Fiddlehead Bistro

Blue Moon Cafe

Nori’s Village Market

Donnelly’s Ice Cream

Skyview Springs Farm

Moody Tree Farm

Tucker Farms

The Health Hub

The Well-Dressed Food Company

Big Tupper Brewing

Raquette River Brewing

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