Every autumn when the lower Hudson Valley transforms into a patchwork quilt of orange, yellow and red, hundreds of thousands of people flood into North Salem to pick apples or grab a glass of cider at one of its orchard options.
Supervisor Warren Lucas said that increasingly over the past 10 years, the two apple orchards on Hardscrabble Road—Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard and Outhouse Orchard—have become a destination for people from all over the area.
“A lot of people want to come here on weekends. It’s a gorgeous area,” Lucas said. “We love it that they come here and take a look at it.”
Located in the northeast corner of Westchester, North Salem is the county’s least dense suburb: 24 square miles of rolling hills and farmland. Thousands of acres of open land host a variety of farms ranging from horse farms to organic animal farms and farm-to-table vegetable farms.
With about 2,000 trees and numerous animals, Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard is one of the most popular spots in town. Kristina Jahaly, manager of the Harvest Moon, said the 65-acre farm is over 100 years old and is also a home base for the community where people can meet friends and neighbors and get together with their families.
Over the years, the farm has hosted many seasonal events, including the Easter Egg Hunt, Apple Blossom Festival and the most popular one—Fall Festival on weekends during September and October when the farm hires temporary workers and brings local vendors in to accommodate more than 40,000 visitors. It also provides educational opportunities to students and donates trees and plants to the town and the school district, and produce to food pantries in neighboring towns.
“We’re very proud that we can grow produce that benefits our local community,” Jahaly said. “We feel that really bring the community together.”
Marije Preci, owner of Salem Pizza and Pasta on June Road, is one of the beneficiaries. She said the business benefits from the orchards, especially during harvest season when dozens of customers pack the restaurant that mostly relies on delivery service.
“It’s a beautiful thing because it helps businesses, especially on weekends when we expect fewer customers,” Preci said.
However, the traffic caused by the crowd makes Preci’s delivery cars get stuck for hours, blocks residents’ way home and raises concern about emergency service access.
Bill Monti, a longtime resident on Hardscrabble Road, said it takes about half an hour to drive less than a mile to his house when the traffic stands still. But his major concern is about emergency vehicle access on the road.
“I don’t deny that they deserve the business, but they have to do something to alleviate the problem that they caused,” Monti said.
Jahaly said the farm has increased its staff substantially this year to direct parking.
“The best we can do is to provide more space here and to get more people to get the cars in more quickly and park more efficiently,” Jahaly said. “We’ve dedicated more resources this year and we’ll continue to do so.”
Over the years, the town has worked with state police to direct traffic at the intersections of I-684 and Hardscrabble Road. More police officers are dispatched there and sometimes Exit 8 has to be closed.
Additionally, Sam Car Service, a taxi company in Croton Falls, helps through rideshare. Owner Sean Murray said during the peak season, the company rents shuttles to transport people from the Croton Falls train station to the orchards at a cost of $5 a person.
Lucas said people in town appreciate having the farms here, but solving the traffic issue takes time.
“People in our town love having the farms here. They love the rural character of our town and the working farms keep the town that way,” Lucas said. “We continue to work with the orchards, but there is no easy solution.”