Autumn: My Favorite Time of Year

Dear Islanders;

It’s my favorite time of year: Fall, or Autumn, if you prefer. Even the word autumn triggers nostalgic images of falling leaves and apples in my mind. Yes, I’m a sucker for everything Fall: apple cider, flannel shirts, boots, and pumpkins. I even love pumpkin spice. I know it’s more spice than pumpkin, and I’m aware of how sentimental that makes me. But if it says pumpkin on it, I’m more likely to buy it.

Fall is harvest time

For those who regularly read these letters, you know how supportive I am and have been of farmers and farmer’s markets. When I came into office 9 months ago, the Town leadership had taken a different position. There was legal action underway to oppose the inclusion of certain properties in an Agricultural District. As I explained in the past, being in an Agricultural District allows a property owner additional protections that are meant to support farming in New York State. 

We pushed back the opposition to the expansion of Agricultural Districts on Grand Island. And despite the claims that there would be dust and mess everywhere unless we stopped the process, things have turned out quite well. We have multiple local agricultural businesses sprouting up on Grand Island. By the way, our Town Code actually states that farms are great and dust and mess are part of farming!

Farming on GI is going well

There is the GI Farms Co-op which brought GI farmers together and operated a market all summer with great success. There was all manner of local products at their “Before the Bridges Market” on Long Road. It’s a great name referencing a time on Grand Island before the bridges when Islanders had to farm just to get by. The market showcased our local farmers and operated on Monday evening.  It restarts next Spring. They featured fine local goods and produce, including honey, garlic, tomatoes, fresh eggs, and homemade baked goods. And now Kelly’s Country Store is hosting a Fall Fest this weekend where our local farmers can once again be showcased along with a lot of other entertainment.  There will be seasonal produce, face painting, a bounce house, wine tasting, apples, cider, vendors, music and more.

As a kid, to me, Kelly’s was the North Pole. I loved visiting there and enjoying the home-made chocolate and of course seeing Santa Clause. It’s a magical place, that I often refer visitors from off-Island to check out. I’m grateful that they are starting to expand upon their Christmas-Easter festivities with what will hopefully be a new seasonal tradition for Grand Island. I’ll be there this weekend, and I welcome you to come. It’s often said, that a rising tide floats all boats, and hopefully the good things that are happening right next door at the Before the Bridges Market seeps over into what Kelly’s is planning and vice versa. 

As an aside: Kelly’s Country Store is steeped in history and that includes the original School House #5 that was built in the 1870’s and was one of Grand Island’s original school houses.  The Grand Island Historical Society has put some TLC into the school house in the past, but it is in need of some restoration.  The Kelly family is hoping that some of the proceeds made at their events such as the Fall Fest will be used to restore the old school house.  How great is that?

Think about five years from now

Think about Grand Island a few years from now. We could have that whole north part of the Boulevard revived and refreshed with real and substantial agricultural activity, just off the highway. We could hopefully get a sign to attract visitors traveling by on route to Niagara Falls. “Welcome to Grand Island’s Farming District - next left.” With Kelly’s as an anchor, that area could be a district that makes sense for agricultural based business.

I know there are other agricultural efforts on Grand Island, which I may be leaving out. I apologize.  And as always, if you are doing something I might not have heard about yet – let me know!  I will support you and urge others to do the same. But Islanders are ever grateful for the fresh produce stand near the VFW which is a staple all summer long.  And our friends at McMahon’s have experimented with the idea. I too, thought of once putting a temporary Farmer’s Market at Town Hall. The movement to fresher eating is sweeping over America and with 22,000+ people on Grand Island, we can support all these endeavors. 

See you at Kelly’s Country Store this weekend for pumpkin patches, wine tasting, apple cider, food trucks, farmer’s market, bounce house and entertainment! Saturday and Sunday 9 am – 4 pm.

Fall is also about scary stories

Fall is also Halloween time—a time of ghosts, and ghouls, and of course witches! I love those scary stores. It’s hard to explain why, but they call back to an irresistible fear deep inside us, or maybe just a natural inclination to be fascinated with the unknown and unknowable. 

Speaking of witches, America has had its fair share of terrible periods where those in power, overcome with hysteria and madness, sought to punish others. You know—witch hunts. You can go back to Salem (or to McCarthy) to find examples of times when we were encouraged to find dark forces in every shadow. Taped confessions, dunce hats, pointed fingers, alleged midnight consultations with dark lords, and kangaroo courts without rules of evidence or proper experience have been part of our history, and should always be guarded against. 

Am I concerned about some of the madness in Town Hall politics? Yes, but this too shall pass. I’m moving forward. There is business to do. Most of you don’t pay any attention to these sorts of matters. You have families and lives that make it difficult to focus in on every twist and turn of the Town Hall soap opera. But if you are closer to it and feel discouraged, be of good cheer, watch the leaves fall, hug your kids though their fall jackets, eat an apple, and please continue to be optimistic about the future of your Island. Remember that the darkest, wettest difficult Fall roads often lead to the most beautiful and colorful destinations.

With warmest regards,