There are few things that are more evocative of country life than strolling through a farmers’ market. City folks flock to the Greenmarkets that dot the urban landscape and we are lucky enough to have four of our own here in Sullivan County – Callicoon, Liberty, Jeffersonville and Kauneonga Lake.
Here in our corner of the world, we live by the seasons: the hibernation in winter, the thawing out of mud season and the green of market season. At the beginning of spring, when the asparagus is just poking up and the rhubarb is unfurling, the market vendors are dusting off their tables and tents. They are in their fields, barns, studios and kitchens preparing to pack up the trucks and bring their bounty directly to the public.
This is not to say that there is ever an off-season for the market vendor. There is actually very little resting in the winter. During the non-planting months, field plans are made, seeds are ordered or saved and then started, wine is fermented, sap is collected and cooked down to syrup, milk becomes cheese, clay magically becomes pottery, fabric pieces are transformed into quilts and silver and jewels are worked into wearable art.
The hearty souls who are your market vendors are some of the hardest working people around. The hours are long, the work is strenuous and the weather is often uncooperative. But somehow when you do what you love, it shows. The joy and pride of selling what you have made or grown can be seen on the face of every vendor. We are a happy lot. The community is strong. Friendships that last a lifetime are forged vendor to vendor and vendor to customer.
The beauty of a farmers’ market is the direct contact between the consumer and the vendor. You, as customers, can ask questions, learn about the farmers’ growing practices or find out how your favorite craft is made. The Sullivan County Area Farmers’ Markets (SCFM) rules assure you that the items for sale are grown, produced, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked, processed or hand-crafted by the vendor. All of the items for sale are local since we require the goods to be produced within a 75-mile radius of Sullivan County. Thus, when you shop the farmers’ markets you help to support the local economy. This is especially important when small towns all over the country are competing with mega-powered superstores and small specialty farms are being gobbled up by developers or forced to compete with giant agri-businesses. When you shop at farmers’ markets, you are buying the freshest possible products and keeping the money with your neighbors, so it can recirculate around town. You are shopping lower on the “food chain” with less packaging and shorter shipping distances, which lessen our impact on the environment.
Products available from the markets change throughout the season. There are always the basic seasonal fruits and veggies, herbs, eggs, cheeses, meats and fish, wines, bedding plants, vegetable and herb seedlings, fresh cut flowers and handmade crafts. Then, you must also experience the specialty products that you won’t find at a regular store: wild mushrooms, colorful potatoes, striped beets, baby greens with bright peppery nasturtiums, delicious quiches, soups and salsas that will make your dinner a breeze, jams and preserves made with just-picked berries, heirloom tomatoes in colors and shapes you thought impossible, and home-baked cookies that will make you think twice about ever biting into another Chips Ahoy.
We, at SCFM, are happy to host three markets, to reconnect the farmer with the consumer and to give selling opportunities for area craftspeople. We serve to educate the community about eating seasonally and locally. We foster social gathering and community activity and we encourage pedestrian traffic to the villages that we serve. We make no-cost market space available to community organizations for educational purposes such as the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Friends of the Liberty Library, Sullivan County Sportsman’s Federation and many other non profit groups. Our markets provide the freshest food to local chefs, professional and home cooks alike. Our markets are not just a place to shop, they are a destination, a social activity, a place to be, an event.