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September 26, 2013

Garlic Festival crowded with people, bulbs

There wasn’t any paparazzi at the 13th Annual Susquehanna Valley Garlic Festival in Milford on Saturday, but the bulbs sure were flashing, garlic bulbs that is. 

A good sized crowd showed up early, rewarded by copious amounts of garlic bulbs, garlic ropes, garlic dips, and garlic cheeses, all displayed by growers eager to share their harvesting experience and knowledge. 

Live blue grass music provided a fitting background for the affair as attendees split their time between buying, learning and eating. 

Lured to the festival by face painting and games, children overcame their initial uncertainty of the celebrated vegetable and embraced the garlic, tasting different types of raw cloves, although Colin Friel, an eight-year old from Ridgefield Park, N.J. was not a big fan, emphatically proclaiming, “I didn’t like the garlic, but I did like the cheese.”  

His sister Jordan did enjoy the garlic, but, mostly the family fun, she said. 

“This festival has a cozy relaxed atmosphere”, says Ken Gies, long time grower and participant in the festival. “It’s more intimate than the big Saugerties Festival.” 

In addition to garlic, other organic products including tee shirts and aprons were offered for purchase.

Most of the growers said they favor the hardier, and better suited to the upstate climate, long necked bulbs over the soft necked variety. Siberian garlic is acknowledged to be one of the best performing garlic bulbs, and the easiest to grow. There are many sub divisions, but about seven varieties exist in New York. 

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension web site, “garlic production has increased significantly in New York over the last few decades, and garlic is now considered to be an important niche crop.” 

For example, 1992, only 11 acres of garlic were reported in New York, but by 1997 the number grew to 153 acres and by 2007 it again doubled to 306 acres. Garlic is currently estimated to be a $20 million dollar crop. New York is the fifth largest garlic producing state in the country, and ten percent of all New York vegetable farms report growing garlic, a higher percentage of growers than for broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, or onions. 

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