By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Saratoga Springs is waking up, smelling the coffee and contemplating the day. Meanwhile, at High Rock Park, farmers are arriving from Milton, Ballston Lake, Argyle, Fort Edward, Salem and elsewhere. Within an hour they will create a space that represents local, food, farming and community at its best.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is local to the core. Farmers grow their vegetables and fruits, raise their animals, and make their artisanal cheeses, bread, and other goods mostly within a four-county radius. They rely on Saratoga shoppers to buy their goods as much as Saratoga relies on them for farm fresh food. This shared fellowship keeps money in our economy, strengthens our food systems and lets farmers and other businesses thrive.
What does local look like? How does it work? This glimpse into the farmers’ market provides some clues.
8:15 am and farmers are carousing with each other as they unload squash, lettuce, apples, beans and other goods. Tables snap open, tablecloths unfold. Bales of straw, sheaves of corn stalks, and pumpkins — hundreds of pumpkins — find their place. In between, the farmers sip coffee, joke about the weather and brag good-naturedly about their goods. They check out each other’s stalls. They will buy from or barter with each other, knowing that the cooperative nature of a farmers’ market means supporting each other.
The early birds arrive. Selling cannot start until 9 a.m. But that doesn’t restrict regulars from checking out the offerings — or when an item is in short supply lining up to buy it first.
“Got any arugula?” The question comes from a market regular.
“Yeah,” replies a farmer. “Right here. Have a look and taste.”
Two women line up for a pumpkin soup sample prepared by Friends of the Market volunteers. “Are you always here this early?” a volunteer asks. “Oh yes,” replied the women, with one noting that she comes in from Ticonderoga.
9 a.m. and vendor Anna Mae Clark rings a bell. The market springs to action. Shoppers fill their bags, local musicians play their hearts out, and children and parents crowd around a table where the weekly activity features pumpkin painting. By 11 a.m., the volunteers’ soup tureen is empty and market director Julia Howard is scrambling to find more pumpkins. One farmer drives back to his farm for more gourds while another provides five dozen. For Howard, the popularity of pumpkins is a coup. More children mean more families, more shoppers — and more future farmers.
As 1 p.m. approaches, gifts of food pile up for musicians as do donations for Franklin Community Center’s food pantry with which the market partners.
The bell rings. The market ends. The farmers pack up and head home, knowing that they’ll be back again.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market moves Nov. 4 to its winter location at the Lincoln Baths Building in Saratoga Spa State Park, where the market will continue Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.