Sweet & Savory Meet at the Honey & Garlic Festival

Sussex County has a honey of a harvest festival—and garlic, too.

Local honey is abundant at the harvest fest in Sussex County.
Local honey is abundant at the harvest fest in Sussex County.
Photo by John Bessler

The way to experience the Sussex County Harvest, Honey and Garlic Festival is to come hungry. Once there, you’ll be able to tease your palate with honey, garlic, wine and cheese tastings. After that, you can fill up on cider doughnuts, hot dogs, chili and ice cream, in addition to farm-fresh apples, pumpkins and other treats.

Autumn Sylvester, principal planner for Sussex County and coordinator of the festival, says the event is meant “to get [people] up here to participate in the local economy.” The seventh annual festival will be held October 8 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.

In addition to edibles, the festival, spanning three or four covered barns on the fairgrounds, promises crafts for sale, from goat’s-milk soaps to photography. Children can paint pumpkins, and the Antique Tractor Club of Sussex County provides tractor rides. There are also information tables from organizations such as the Friends of Historic Lusscroft Farm, which aims to restore the site and turn it into a museum.

Sylvester, of Stillwater, says the event’s focus on honey and garlic sets it apart from other festivals, though she admits the name is “a mouthful.” Last year’s festival brought in around 2,200 attendees.

Jeanne Lardino, owner of Hillside Honey in Succasunna, will be among the beekeepers offering their wares, including honey. Bees, says Lardino, are “really fascinating creatures” because of their work ethic and social hierarchy, and the way they take care of each other. The Sussex County Beekeepers Association counts nearly 200 members in Sussex and other counties.

The Garden State Garlic Growers aim to educate consumers about how to grow and eat garlic, primarily driven by three Sussex farms attending the festival: Catalpa Ridge, Valley Fall and Walnut Grove. Les Guile, co-owner of Walnut Grove Farm in Augusta, says that after several generations of people buying food at the supermarket, “the kids have no idea” how food grows or what it looks like. He hopes the festival can inspire people to grow things at home. “Gets you outside and away from the computers,” he declares.

Guile’s farm started growing garlic in the early 1990s, and while not officially certified, follows organic practices. That’s in contrast to the garlic in supermarkets, he says, most of which comes from China and has been irradiated. “It’s a lot of work,” he says of farming, “but if you have a love for it and an interest, it’s worth it.”

Animal lovers will find plenty to celebrate at the festival. Hidden Pastures Alpacas offers alpaca-wool crafts for sale including socks and blankets, as well as alpacas to meet. The Avian Wildlife Center of Wantage, a rehabilitation and research facility, introduces wide-eyed onlookers to a variety of native birds such as Newt, the Barred Owl. Wolf Visions, which aims to end the “big bad wolf” stigma, has its own mascot: a friendly wolf named Tecomah. Wolf Visions founder Vinnie Reo, of Andover Township, says of his fanged friends: “I think they’re beautiful creatures; they’re just misunderstood.”

Elaine Smith of Montague, who attended the festival for the first time last year, says it’s good to get the family outside for the day. Robert and Edith Werder of Butler, also first-timers, were pleased to “support the local farmers,” Robert says.

“We’re just trying to let people know what’s available in Sussex County,” says Alicia Batko of Montague, a member and volunteer with the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council. “It’s a wonderful place to live and to raise a family.”

The 7th annual Sussex County Harvest, Honey and Garlic Festival will be held October 8, 10 am to 4 pm at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, 37 Plains Road, Augusta. Admission is free. For more information, visit the event website.

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