Lure of Farmers' Market returns
By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY May 8, 2007 The April showers came, and now it’s time for the May flowers… and vegetables, jams, pottery and so much more.
The first weekend in May coincides with opening weekend of the Sullivan County Farmers’ Market (SCFM), the open air gathering points for growers, crafters and their hungry customers.
More than a decade after the first market opened in Liberty, the latest incarnation of SCFM features four markets open three days each weekend.
They run from early May through the late fall and this year two holiday markets will extend the run into early winter.
Market Manager Jan Van Nostrand is one year into her position and still loving the job.
“I really have had a fantastic year,” she said. “It’s been a fascinating year I’ve met an incredible amount of amazing people.”
Although Van Nostrand has been raising and selling beef in the county since the late ’70s, her new job has given her a greater appreciation for farming.
“Think about the amount of energy it takes to get up at 4 a.m., to pick, pack up, drive to market, sell for a few hours, then go home, do chores, unpack… ,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m in awe of some of these farmers.”
She leaves the market exhausted after a long day’s work and gets to put her feet up, she said.
But the vendors are amazing people, she said.
They make the market.
They’re the reason to wander in.
“You talk to the farmer,” Van Nostrand said. “He can tell you why he picked the best variety to grow in his area, how to cook that eggplant.
“When you buy plants, you know they were grown locally, so you know they will grow in your garden,” she continued.
National tainted food scandals have made local markets like those in Sullivan County that much more necessary and that much more popular, Van Nostrand said.
“Who ever thought you could get food poisoning from fresh spinach?” she asked. “People are more conscious of where their food is coming from.
“Nationally, the number of farmers markets has skyrocketed,” Van Nostrand continued. “You’re supporting local agriculture, and you’re getting fresh food not shipped in from California.
“Just think about how much gas is spent shipping a tomato from California!”
This year the farmers markets have partnered with the USDA and the Federation of New York Farmers’ Markets to bring the residents who rely on food stamps into the market.
They can bring their food stamp card to the market to be swiped through a terminal in exchange for tokens to be spent at the booths in the market.
The tokens can be exchanged for fresh food or vegetable plants, Van Nostrand explained, and the vendors can cash in the tokens to receive their money.
This provides anyone on a low income food program with an alternative, Van Nostrand said, and hopefully will encourage more people to make use of the markets.
She’s trying other things to get more people in like cooking demonstrations by local chefs.
The idea is to cook up dishes using foods found in the market.
The folks from the Eat Smart New York program at Cornell Cooperative Extension will take care of some of the demonstrations, but Van Nostrand is seeking local chefs who want to talk up their own restaurants.
She’d like to pair the preparation of ethnic dishes with entertainment that fits a belly dancer with Middle Eastern food, for example.
In Liberty, specifically, Van Nostrand said the huge Hispanic population is poorly represented at the market. Perhaps the chefs at the Hispanic restaurants could make an appearance to draw them in, she suggested.
The goal is to ensure the markets are part of the community.
This year a holiday market will be held in early December in both Liberty and Callicoon under a tent with heat.
Christmas tree suppliers and other vendors with holiday wares who might not attend the summertime markets will be invited, and Van Nostrand hopes to turn the one-time events into community parties.
The Callicoon market opened this past Sunday in Callicoon Creek Park on Audley Dorrer Drive and will continue each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the holiday market, set for Dec. 9.
The Liberty market will open Friday, May 11, and continue each Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Darbee Lane until Nov. 30. A holiday market will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the site.
Next to open will be the Roscoe market, Sunday, May 20. The market will remain open in the municipal lot on Stewart Ave. each Sunday through Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Last to open will be the Jeffersonville market on June 14. It will remain open each Thursday through Sept. 6 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the lot on Main Street behind the Three Chocolateers (across from the former Eddie’s Supermarket).
To become a vendor, sign up to entertain or cook or for more information, call Jan Van Nostrand at 292-6180, ext. 115 or visit www.sullivancountyfarmersmarkets.org