The farmers market season kicked off during May and early June, with 2021 promising to be an excellent year for the vendors and the customers themselves, many of whom make repeated visits. Mary Stalker, coordinator of the Waterford Harbor Farmers Market (Sundays 9-1 at the Waterford docks), says “Between our regulars, boaters, cyclists and walkers that happen upon us and those that make it a destination, I'd say we get about 10,000 visits over the course of the year. But hundreds of those each week are repeat customers.” The Market has 15-20 vendors each week and combines agricultural prowess with the beautiful and ever-changing landscape of the busy waterfront at the entrance to the Erie Canal.
Similarly, the Saratoga Farmers Market (www.saratogafarmersmarket.org) has been serving the community for over 40 years with a busy outdoor summer season that hosts over 60 local vendors at weekly Saturday markets, as well as about 15 at the Wednesday market (Saratoga) and 10 or so in Clifton Park on Mondays. During the winter, November through April, their weekly Saturday market has between 40-50 vendors. Some 700 customers visit the Saratoga market on wintry Saturdays, with summer Wednesday visits peaking at about 600 per week and Saturdays between 1,500-2,500 during the busiest times.
Describing the impact of their work, Emily Meagher, Market Administrator for the Saratoga Farmer’s Market Association, says, “Our markets provide an economical and supportive platform for all farmers, but especially for small family farms that otherwise might not have the capital and other resources available to effectively sell their high quality, fresh products. The direct interaction with the community provides farms with the opportunity to create close relationships with their customers and grow their business organically. Additionally, by our markets offering a way for farms to accept SNAP benefits and other nutrition assistance programs, we offer a more inclusive environment for customers that vendors benefit from.”
Many area farms follow the market schedule to appear in different communities throughout the week. For example, Autumn Carpenter, of Carpenter Farms, has been a staple at the Waterford Harbor Farmers Market and Halfmoon Farmers Market for years. Autumn was also the leader of the market startup in Stillwater (Tuesdays 3-6pm) Stillwater in 2019. They are a great example of making it easy to buy locally. Autumn allows customers to order from her ahead of time and then they have the option to pick up at any of her markets. She also collaborates with local businesses like Your CBD Store in Clifton Park to display her wares, and Your CBD Store has appeared at the Stillwater Farmers Market. This sort of collaboration is common and has led to several new business startups. Says Stalker, “Danielle Giroux of Giroux Studios made soaps for friends and family and decided to start a business. She started selling at the market and then made a deal with Hatchet Hardware [a growing, family-owned small chain of area hardware stores] to sell at their locations.”
To Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen, it’s all about community while helping local residents enjoy fresh, homegrown fruits and veggies, homemade baked goods, organic meats, jams and jellies, great food, crafts and other handmade products. “They provide families with a way to shop and support local farmers and families,” says Tollisen. The Halfmoon Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays 3-6pm) has become very popular due to the vast amounts of different products. We are also partnering with area non-profit organizations weekly to highlight their commitment and the services they provide to the community. Picnic tables have also been added for people to enjoy!”
The agricultural community of Saratoga County has two main events each year that highlight aspects of our farming prowess. One is the Saratoga County Fair, which is run by the Agricultural Society and showcases the various farms along with the 4-H, tractors, shows, prizes, and more. The Fair board is busy raising funds for a new grandstand, and an abbreviated post-COVID version of the Fair is on tap for July 22-25, 2021. Visit www.saratogacountyfair.org for more information.
On Father’s Day, Sunday June 20, from 11am to 2pm, the annual “Sundae on the Farm” will return with a special “drive through” edition held at Mill Creek Farm, located at 1019 County Road 70, Stillwater, NY. It is owned and operated by Anne Morgan, Michael Morgan, Samantha Little, and in memory of Tim Little. Area farmers will collaborate to put on a great display with audio recording which attendees can enjoy from their vehicles. There will be dairy and beef cattle, meat sheep, horses and farm equipment, and a Golden Horseshoe Hunt! King Dairy and Stewart’s Shops are donating ice cream coupons for all attendees (while supplies last). They can be redeemed at any Stewart’s or King Dairy location. Sundae on the Farm is free, fun and family-friendly, the perfect place to bring Dad to celebrate Father’s Day! Have fun and learn something about our local agriculture industry in the process. For details contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County at (518) 885-8995.
Even well into the 21st century, Saratoga County remains at the forefront of agriculture in upstate New York. In an age where concerns have grown over stretched supply lines, farming is one area where we are fortunate to have so many people who “think local”!
Written by Pete Bardunias, Senior Vice President, Community Advancement, Capital Region Chamber