Two Market Originals: Robert Downing and Anna Mae Clark
When Saratoga Farmers’ Market held its first summertime session in the large Spring Street parking lot, over 35 years ago, only a handful of farmers attended.
Among those gathering were two farmers from the Town of Ballston: Robert Downing, a vegetable farmer, and Anna Mae Clark, who sold flowers, produce, and jam. Clark’s parents, Lucy and Harry Bliss, also attended to sell gladiolus flowers in striking spires of color.
Three and a half decades later, despite the market’s tremendous growth and changes, both Clark and Downing are still vending at the market.
New Flavor for Anna Mae’s Jams
Anna Mae Clark attends both the Wednesday and Saturday market sessions in the summer. She is known for ringing the market’s opening bell, for her colorful collection of adorned and storied hats, and for her popular assortment of jams in dozens of flavors.
This Saturday, September 13, Clark will introduce a new jam to honor her late mother, who passed away in July.
“The jam resulted from a conversation I had with my mother and father at their breakfast table, the morning prior to Mom’s passing,” explains Clark. “We talked jams, tossed a few ideas about, never thinking it would be our last conversation.”
“After she died, I got to thinking about doing something in her honor. The jam we discussed came to mind. My father liked the idea, and the labels were created by my granddaughter, Ashley, so it’s been a real family effort in honor of my mother.”
“Mom’s birthday was September 13, so we’ll introduce her jam—to be called “In Memory of Lucy”—at the market. She would have turned 96 this Saturday; my father will be 96 years young on Halloween this year. They were married for 73 years, and raised and sold gladiolus for 40 years from the Bliss Glad Farm. We were side by side while we both attended Saratoga Market,” Clark recalls.
A Man and His Tractor
Also a founding member of the market, Robert Downing continues to sell produce, well into what could be called his retirement years. “People ask me why I work so hard, why I don’t stop farming and start traveling or relaxing,” he muses. “The fact is, I enjoy raising vegetables.”
At his farm on Eastline Road in Ballston, he grows tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, red and white onions, cabbage, potatoes, and a few other crops. He is expecting some fall pumpkins this year as well, “though not as many as before.”
At a recent market session, Downing sported a John Deere hat and a T-shirt that read, “A man and his tractor…it’s a beautiful thing.”
Downing attends only the Wednesday markets in Saratoga, usually beginning in early August and running to early October. He also attends the Clifton Park market run by the Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association, held every Thursday at St. George’s Church on Route 146.
*Ingredients can be purchased at Saratoga Farmers’ Market
1 ½ cups flour (optional: use up to 50% white whole wheat flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk*
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup honey*
1/2 cup jam*
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease 12 standard muffin cups or insert paper liners.
Combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine the milk, oil, vanilla, egg, and honey.
Add wet ingredients to the dry mix and stir just enough to combine. Add the jam, and fold the mixture a few times to distribute it, but leave the mixture streaky.
Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into middle of muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a rack.