You’ll Find Good Food from Hard Work at Local Farmers Market
It’s often a surprise to visitors, but you can get into a car parked on any city street in Syracuse or Rochester, and just 15 minutes later be standing in front of a farmer selling eggs laid by free range chickens that morning. If anything sets CNY cities apart from other livable towns, its our easy access to fresh farm-grown food at regional farmers markets.
With Central New York’s long history of agricultural excellence its no surprise farmers markets are a popular destination. With well over 500 registered, the number of farmers markets in New York State has more than doubled since 2000. The range of products available for purchase at any given market includes dairy, vegetables, fruits, flowers and crafts. These diverse offerings from small farms provide healthy and organic options for you and your family, and should not go overlooked.
Small-scale agriculture is the backbone of the Central New York economy providing a livelihood for countless residents, supplying the community with locally grown and fresh products. The majority of the area’s farms are completely self-sufficient, receiving little or no government based assistance.
With so many markets in the immediate area, its easy to find one on almost any day of the week. My journey to speak with some of the vendors led me to two—the Syracuse Regional Market, and the Skaneateles Farmers Market.
The first stop was Wake Robin Farms run by Bruce, Meg, and their son Hugh Schrader in Jordan, NY . The Schrader’s produce yogurt, milk, and many varieties of cheese year round. A family run business since 1999, the Schrader’s have been expanding since 2006, growing from just four Jersey cows to over 30.
The Scharader’s do everything from breeding the cows to ripening the cheese; their responsibilities keeps them busy day and night.
“We enjoy our way of life, and we appreciate our customers who make local food a priority in their lives.” – Wake Robin Farms
Wake Robin Farms attends the Syracuse Regional Farmers Market every Saturday, year round. In addition to attending the market, they provide produce to local restaurants such as: The Garage Eats in Skaneateles, Skaneateles Bakery, and Middle Lakes Navigation who serves the Schrader’s cheese on their boat tours.
Willis Poultry Farms, run by Joe Willis in Manlius, NY has been in business since WWII. As a child Joe helped his father Joe senior on the farm, but over time thier roles have switched. His father, 88 years old , still delivers eggs and does farm chores, but has passed most of the responsibility onto Joe.
As a small family farm, Willis Poultry has to sell directly to people who care about finding the freshest food. Farmers Markets are the best way to reach those customers. “The problem with trying to compete against large farms is large store buyers who don’t understand the difference between a fresh, and a day old egg.” says Joe Willis.
Willis Poultry Farm has been attending the Syracuse Regional Farmers Market every Saturday since the 1930’s but 90% of their livelihood comes from the support of restaurants such as: Riley’s, Pastabilities, and Angotti’s Family Restaurant, all of whom take deliveries a couple times a week.
Bonnie and Eric Zeltman of Baldwinsville, NY have been shopping at the Syracuse Regional Farmers Market for 25 years, every Saturday all year long. When asked what excites them about farmers markets, the couple stressed the personal connections. “We have gotten to know some of the vendors personally and of course we come for the fresh produce and flowers. The breakfast at Doug’s on Wheels Bagel is great too.”
Many of the vendors I spoke with shared that feeling of community. All are independent private enterprises with a year round commitment to the trade, and the long lived, strong tradition of family. One example is Belle Terre Farm of Sodus, NY. Liz Madison, of Belle Terre Farm explained how her father began the farm out of high school selling everything from apples, asparagus, and plums, to bok choy and spinach. .
Donald Hahn’s father started Hahn Farms over 60 years ago. Every year, Hahn begins his season selling herbs from May to the 1st of July. In the summer he sells his zucchini, garlic, watermelons, and corn. He ends the season in the winter months with winter squash. In addition to the Syracuse Regional Farmers Market, the Hahn Farm stand can be found at the Baldwinsville Market on Wednesdays and the City of Syracuse Market on Tuesdays.
Dave and Shanna Colovita have been coming to the market every Saturday for the last seven years. The market provides a way for them to get out and speak with the people responsible for the food they eat. “The prices are better when buying it here, I like supporting local business and talking to the farmers. It is really beneficial and interesting to hear tips about how to grow their plants especially since we have started our own garden” says Dave.
For over 20 years, Brenda Leader owner of B&B Farms of Conquest, NY has worked diligently with relatives Ester Webber and Matthew Leader to provide for her family, create a sustainable life, and provide good food for their customers. B&B Farms attends the Syracuse Regional Farmers Market year round and even partakes in produce auctions in the winter. “People should buy from the farmers market” says Ester. “It is good and healthy, and helps us keep our livelihood going.”
Town of Skaneateles Farmers Market
With the summer heading our way, the adventurous should take a ride to the Town of Skaneateles Farmers Market where you can meet Marty Hanscomb, the garlic man from Good Karma Garlic Patch, and Bob and Nancy Lee of Balsam Rose Soap Company.
The Good Karma Garlic Patch was started 10 years ago with a single bag of garlic. It has now grown into five acres of prime product. They attend the Skaneateles Farmers Market two days a week and sell garlic directly from their farm in Jordan, NY.
Balsam Rose Soap Company may not be a typical stand at traditional farmers market, but all ingredients used to make the soap and body butters are 100% natural and pure. The Lee’s concern for the environment drives them to use natural exfoliants from plants and herbs, along with 100% natural aromatherapy grade essential oils. “We put a lot of research into the things that we do to get the best product” says Bob Lee, owner of Balsam Rose Soap Company. “This is a quality product and if you read what’s on the back you can’t get better than that. We want it to be your every day soap that’s why we keep it down to $5 a bar.”
These families are making a living from their own endeavors, it’s only right to show our support and buy local and fresh. So get up, grab your loved ones and take a weekend to explore. To find farmers markets located all over New York State Visit theFarmers Market Federation of NY and begin your journey.