Hunterdon County, NJ’s ‘579 Trail’ spotlights local farms, experiences
You may have heard of great local spots like Bobolink Dairy or Beneduce Vineyards, but a certain corridor of Hunterdon County has much more to offer, and officials have developed a handy way for residents and visitors alike to navigate these attractions with ease.
The 579 Trail was launched a little more than a year ago and, as its name suggests, it represents dozens of farms, farmers markets, wineries, and other agricultural experiences within seven miles on either side of County Route 579, which spans the length of the county between Bloomsbury and West Amwell.
Marc Saluk, Hunterdon County Economic Development director, said the local business community came to his office with the idea.
Development of the concept had begun prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the launch gave the county something to promote to its residents when public health officials were urging everyone to stay local throughout the spring of 2020.
"The idea was that there were non-congested, safe, outdoor, fun experiences to be had right in Hunterdon County residents' own backyard," Saluk said.
Saluk's office immediately saw the value in branding local businesses under a common, marketable name, and he said the early feedback from those businesses has been overwhelmingly positive, as owners and growers had a fruitful year, so to speak, even during the health crisis.
Along with the fresh produce and artisanal food and beverage offered at many of these destinations are unique experiences — such as hiking or doing yoga with goats, for instance.
"County Road 579 has historically been an agricultural corridor, and there are an abundance of attractions related to agribusiness and agritourism within range of that drive," Saluk said.
Now that COVID restrictions have eased, Hunterdon County is reaching beyond its borders to promote the 579 Trail to non-residents, focusing especially on events and places to stay.
Online, the businesses on the Trail are color-coded and assigned specific icons, letting potential customers know if a certain site has a farmstand, or if it offers online ordering.
There is also an "Off the Trail" tab, which highlights places in Hunterdon County with similar offerings, but are located just outside the Trail's radius.