Getting fresh food, fresh air and catching up with your neighbors are rites of spring and summer in this neck of the woods – and there’s one place where you have access to all of them. Your neighborhood Farmers Market.
One of the most popular and longest-running markets in the area is the Saratoga Farmers Market. It’s been around for 34 years – long before local living came to be in vogue – and now has bragging rights since it was voted the state’s favorite Farmers Market by American Farmland Trust in 2011.
The market is located on High Rock Avenue in Saratoga Springs and offers goods from over 50 vendors offering produce, plants, soaps, lotions and more. The summer market operates from May through October on Wednesday afternoons from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. and on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The kickoff for this year’s market season is Saturday, May 5.
`The Saratoga market is incredibly popular because of the location of the outdoor market right in downtown Saratoga as well the variety of things you can find there. Shoppers love knowing that everything sold at the Saratoga Farmers Market has to be produced locally in Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington or Schenectady counties,” said Tammey Holtby, operations coordinator for American Farmland Trust’s New York field office. She also lives in Saratoga Springs and shops at the Saratoga Farmers Market regularly.
“In New York State the number of markets has risen from 235 in 2000 to 500 in 2010.That’s a 113 percent increase,” said Laurie Ten Eyck, New York field representative for American Farmland Trust. “What’s more, New York State ranks second in the nation for the number of markets. The farmers market is a place where farmers can get the best price for their goods by selling directly to the consumer and cutting out the middleman.”
Market Coordinator Suzanne Voigt said, “We have an amazing number of regular customers, and a group of about 15 of them formed Friends of the Saratoga Farmers Market last year. They’re a wonderful group who are doing great things for our market. One of the things they’ve started is a Veggie Valet.”
The Veggie Valet provides customers with wagons and a marked area to place their purchases as they shop the market. This service comes in handy, especially this time of year when folks are buying a lot of plants and can’t carry or cart everything at once – a common dilemma at markets.
Farmer Chrissey Eberhardt of Joy of the Journey Farm in Greenfield Center makes soaps and lotions made with goat milk from a herd she raises. She’s been a vendor at the Saratoga market for more than five years.
“The market has grown immensely in the last few years. … Farmers markets are great because customers can talk with a farmer directly about what they’re growing and making,” said Eberhardt.
The Saratoga Market, like many others, also serves as a CSA pickup location. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, offer shares to consumers of a farmer’s goods that include a variety of seasonal products. Shares are options that let you choose how much you’d like to spend per week or month, and gives you freedom to select what products you’d like to purchase. It’s a prepaid ticket to seasonal shopping.
Michael Kilpatrick of Kilpatrick Family Farm in Granville has been selling at the market for more than seven years and offers CSA shares from his farm.
He said that the opportunity to get food from farmers is great for consumers and is “completely changing the food system, creating transparency and clarity in the food system.”
Many farmers welcome the growing opportunities offered by CSAs and Farmers Markets to let consumers know about what they’re producing. Many, like Kilpatrick, even encourage visitors to his farm.
“We have a 24/7 open door policy at our farm. We want people to come and see the farm and what we do,” said Kilpatrick.
According to Ten Eyck, there are over 6,000 farmers markets operating nationwide, including many in the Greater Capital District.
Other popular markets in our area include the Troy Farmers Market, Delmar Farmers Market, Schenectady Farmers Market and the Menands Farmers Market.
As many as 19,000 farmers use the markets as their primary marketing method, and over $1 billion in food and farm products are sold each year at the markets. They’re becoming more popular for farmers, consumers and communities alike, especially with the growing buy local movement.
There are approximately 50 markets throughout Albany, Saratoga, Washington, Columbia, Warren, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties. Since markets are not required to be registered with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, this number is likely a conservative one.
The Saratoga Market also operates a market in Clifton Park on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. at St. George’s parking lot and starting in June, they’ll have one on Tuesday afternoons in Malta at the Town Center.
To find a farmers market near you, log on to nyfarmersmarket.com