Topics included in this article:
- Growth of farmers markets in the Hudson Valley
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Hudson Valley USA: Many farmers are not organic
- Local chefs jumping on board
- It’s no longer just about farms
- Fun for the whole family
One of the great aspects of living in the Hudson Valley USA is the ever-growing appearances of farmers markets. People are catching the market fever. Everybody wins as customers can interact with the farmers and farmers can grow more of what customers want.
It should come as no surprise that these markets are becoming popular. With growing cases of cancer and other serious diseases, people want a healthier alternative to food than what they get at the grocery stores. They want to be able to ask what kinds of procedures and chemicals the farmers are using. This is hard to do at the grocery store as the food is sourced from various locations.
Hudson Valley USA is an area Northwest of New York City. It is not considered the Catskills nor is it what locals would consider “upstate.” But it rivals in the beauty of the Catskills and has many attractions including farmers markets.
The popularity of farmers markets has grown quite extensively in the past seven to ten years. This is due to growing concerns about how food is processed and delivered. The controversy surrounding Genetically Engineered Organisms (GMO) is another large concern from the community.
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)
The concept of helping farmers out during their production cycle is known as Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). The idea is for people to contribute money at the beginning of the growing period and in return, they get a basket of produce every week. The contents of the basket change from week-to-week based on the discretion of the farmers. The farmers get the necessary funding to grow and harvest their crops while the community members get food when it is available. Often, the farmers will apply a discount as part of the benefit of being a member.
A drawback to this type of CSA is you get no credit applied to the next season if you miss picking up your food. The membership expires every year, and members need to pay the next season again. Some farmers are adopting a different approach where you pay a certain amount, and you can buy whatever you want. These types of memberships never expire and are discounted as well. If you pay the farmers $250, they will set your balance to $275. They just deduct the amount you spend from that balance.
Hudson Valley USA: Many Farmers Are Not Organic
When the United States Department of Agriculture took over the management of the organic program, many farmers in the area decided to opt out. The process became overly complicated and expensive. It seemed as though this would hurt sales but farmers maintain it is not needed. Most farmers are open to people coming out to their farms to see what is going on for themselves. You will likely find most of them using organic practices despite not getting certified.
One farmer stated that to be certified organic, the farm must remain untouched for a certain number of years. Large farms can continue operations under these constraints while the smaller farms would go out of business. It seems organic certification is used to drive smaller farmers away. Over time, trust is developed between the farmers and the community, making certification a less important factor.
You can find organic farmers in the area. One, in particular, Blooming Hill Farms, is located in the Hudson Valley but interestingly participates in a neighboring state’s farmers market. It’s a big market in Ramsey, NJ and is one of the most populated. It’s not easy for vendors to get in but the ones that are there enjoy the heavy foot traffic.
Chefs Are Jumping on Board
Another growing trend is local chefs and farmers working together to source food for the restaurants with crops produced from the farms. It’s a concept known as farm-to-table. It’s a big draw for restaurants, and they try to use it as a selling point to bring in more customers. It’s less effective now as a sales tool with all the chefs trying to position their restaurants as being farm-to-table. Nonetheless, restaurant customers do appreciate being able to eat great food that is in-season.
It’s No Longer Just About Farms
When farmers markets first came to the scene, many of them were small with two or three farms participating. As they grew, so did the diversity of the vendors’ offerings. You’ll find fish markets, pizza vendors, pickle vendors, and bakeries. You can even find coffee distributors.
The markets often have different kinds of events throughout the season and special vendors are invited to sell their products. This can include anything from arts and crafts to chocolates. During the fall, for instance, you’ll find hayrides and baked goods with apples along with hot cider.
It’s not uncommon for markets to have musicians play during some or most of the hours of operation. The styles range from bluegrass to rock and sometimes you’ll even find some classical musicians appear on the scene.
Partnerships between schools and farms are also something that is on the rise. Schools have initiatives in place to provide fresh foods from the farms as well as classes on healthy eating and cooking. It’s a great way to get kids involved with healthier habits at an early age. Plus, when they learn how to cook for themselves, they will find eating their vegetables is enjoyable and tasty.
Fun for the Whole Family
Several farms welcome visitors to volunteer to work on their farms. This could be a great family activity, and it helps the farmers. You can learn all about farming and participate in the farm operations to observe the practices used. It’s perfect for kids and can set the seeds for them to pursue farming later in life. There is a high demand for young farmers as many current farmers are approaching retirement age. Learning these skills early on will go a long way towards entering the occupation.
The number of farmers markets entering the area continues to rise. Most of the markets are open during the weekend, but there are several that you can find at any day of the week.
Vintage Hudson Valley Farmers Market Planner – http://www.vintagehudsonvalley.com/planner-farmers-markets.shtml