There’s nothing like exploring the Hudson Valley’s bounty firsthand — and having someone else do the planning and driving (especially when visiting a distillery or brewery)! Imagine not having to create an itinerary, worry about taking a wrong turn, not having enough snacks along the way, or drinking too much. Kevin DePodwin (who drives) and his wife, Lindsay (who offers fascinating background info on the trip), have crafted that exact experience.
Table to Farm Tours offers a plethora of farm excursions packed into one amazing day. Or, you can tell them what you enjoy seeing, eating, and drinking and they will design an adventure for your family or group of friends. From pig and longhorn cattle farms, to goat cheese and maple syrup operations, the DePodwins will arrange everything. Table to Farm Tours is connected with some of the best establishments off the beaten track, so expect a warm welcome from these fascinating men and women who love sharing their lives with visitors.
Choose from two extremely different areas to explore: Columbia County’s pastoral rolling countryside or Delaware County’s stunning Catskills landscape. Each place attracts different types of farming. Then, you tell Kevin and Lindsay what type of farms you prefer to visit. And if you decide to leave the decision making entirely up to them, you won’t be disappointed.
My Columbia County Saturday morning adventure included a stop at Maple Leaf Sugaring in the woods of rural Ghent. Since 2015, Ben and Veronica Madey have owned and operated a certified organic maple farm producing high quality syrup on their wood-fired evaporator. Off-season the couple is busy cutting wood although the trees here are “harvested,” rather than destroyed. Veronica demonstrated how trees are tapped without damaging them.
Various types of syrup, Maple Leaf Sugaring, Ghent
The Madeys use modern techniques (plastic lines rather than those quaint wooden buckets of yore) to extract sap from their maple trees. Interestingly, maples have the highest sugar content of any tree. The various syrup colors ranging from several shades of light liquid to amber and dark tones depend on the time of the season (February through April) the sap is extracted: the later the syrup is produced, the darker it will be. The best temperature for a good “flow” is when there are warm days and cold nights.
“We take out 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup,” Veronica explained, mentioning it was time to sample some syrup varieties along with the maple cream and candy.
â€‹Lover’s Leap Farm pigs, Kinderhook, NY
We headed north to Kinderhook for our next stop: Lovers Leap Farm, owned by Curt Gobrecht, who told us, “I purchased a 60-acre orchard a few years ago and it’s now home to 120 pigs where they roam free and mate naturally.”
Like the Madeys, Curt is part of the revival of small-scale farming in the Hudson Valley. He showed us the skeleton of a boar, one of the original 30 pigs on a farm on this land a century ago. The pigs love to eat the grass and they have cleared several wooded areas. Curt’s mission is to transform the farm’s woodlands into productive land for raising livestock and growing plants.
Heritage breed pigs are Curt’s passion and he is developing a lovers leap hybrid. “Hairy pigs do well in the cold winters,” he said, revealing several unusual facts about these animals that are often derided. Curt uses a solar-powered fence “organizer” to keep the pigs on the farm, although occasionally one will wander over to his neighbor’s property.
The name of the place struck as somewhat odd for a pig farm. When we walked along the beautiful hiking trails on the property, Curt told the legend claiming two lovers intentionally leaped together on horseback to their deaths from a high knoll in what is now woods, when their union was forbidden by their elders.
Gary Samascott, owner of Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY
Our final stop was Samascott Orchards, a century-old family operation in Columbia County. Owner Gary Samascott narrated his family farm’s story as we drove through over 1000 acres here.
Half the land is planted with apples, cherries, blueberries, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and many more vegetables and a portion of the land is rented to neighboring farmers. The family once had a dairy operation on this sprawling property but in 1969 switched to fruit. Now their produce can be found at farmers markets in Manhattan as well as those throughout the county.
Granny Smith apples, Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY
I was blown away by the variety of apples, all clearly labeled with signs in the fields that read: pink lady, pink-a-boo, macoun, and honey crisp, the most popular, according to Gary. Of course, a special part of the tour was our final stop: the Samascott farm store where they sell homemade peanut butter ice cream — a treat not to be missed!
Burn Ayr Farm, Delhi, NY
A highlight of my full-day Catskills tour, is one of my favorite farms anywhere: Burn Ayr in Delhi, with magnificent Highland cattle; the farm has been in the Sullivan family for two generations although it was a dairy farm when it was established in 1890. No one should leave this farm without purchasing some of the beef from the enormous freezer in their farm store.
The Sullivans also run The Inn on Toll Gate Creek, across the street from the farm; although I haven’t stayed there, it looks like those who do will be in for a delightful stay that includes a mouth-watering farmhouse breakfast.
Unlike many activities in our region, this business operates year-round and it’s a great cold weather family outing for those who don’t ski, skate or snowboard — or even those who do and want a change of pace. So eat, drink, be merry — and most of all, relax — and leave the driving to the DePodwins!
In addition to farm tours, ideal for families, there are “Libations Tours” and “Evening Dinner & Drinks.”
Half-day tours are $75 for adults, $60 under 12.
Full-day tours are $95 for adults, $75 under 12.
The libations/beer/wine tours run between $95 & $110. (Burgers, Beer, Movie & Cocktails or Drive-In Movie, Dinner & Drinks).
There are a few special evening experiences for varying prices. A trip to the Greenville Drive in (with dinner, snacks, and 2 cocktails) is $75 per person and on-farm dinners and movies or concerts are $120.
Check their website for all the possibilities.
Table to Farm Tours
53585 Route 30
Joanne Michaels is the author of The Hudson Valley & Catskill Mountains: Only the Best Places, Let’s Take the Kids, Hudson River Journey, Hudson River Towns, Hudson River Valley Farms, and Adirondack High. A former editor of Hudson Valley magazine, she lives in Woodstock, New York and grew up in Shrub Oak in northern Westchester.