By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Thirty-five years ago, Gifford Farms brought vegetables and fruits to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. These days, their stall on Wednesday afternoons also features jars of honey, bottles of maple syrup, and such goods as steamed brown bread.
The latter is an innovation of Linda Gifford’s daughter. She creates a quick bread batter, places it in a can, seals the can, and simmers it in water. The result is a spongy, mildly sweet concoction that can be enjoyed in a single meal.
These changes reflect the evolving nature of the Saratoga Farmers’ Market primary customer base. When the market began in 1978, farmers served families who prepared three meals a day, six or seven days a week. They relied on farmers not only for fresh produce, meats, eggs, and other products for the week but also on large quantities of seasonal goods for freezing or canning for later use.
These days, Gifford says, “I still sell corn, one or two ears per customer, maybe six sometimes. It used to be a dozen. Tomatoes, peppers, used to go by the bushel.”
Even as busy lives and around-the-clock work demands alter how families cook and eat together, locally grown, raised, and made farm-fresh goods remain important. The Saratoga Farmers’ Market staff and volunteers are initiating new projects in response to these changes. The market this year, for instance, has provided an ATM so customers can get easy access to cash. It also has adopted a new FreshFoodNY app as part of a project with the New York State Federation of Farmers Markets to allow customers to pre-order items from market vendors for an easy pick-up.
Older farmers accept the change as part of a change in their lives, as well. Deb Stevens of Butternut Ridge Farm notes that the farm – started by her in-laws – was smaller when the market inaugurated its first season 40 years ago. After she and her husband took over, it got bigger. Now, she says, “we’re getting smaller again.”
“It’s time,” she says. “We like being in the market quite a bit. And we like doing other things with our lives, as well.”
Younger farmers use the changes to fine-tune what to grow.
Lindsay Fisk, co-owner of Owl Wood Farm with Mark Bascom, says, “We’re trying to grow slowly, and to grow in a way that meets demand.”
As she spoke, a head of radicchio rolled off its spot as a shopper approached. The shopper’s face lit up with delight. “I was hoping I might find radicchio today.”
Fisk noted that radicchio – a purple veined leafy vegetable – was a new Owl Wood offering last fall. After it got a good reception, Fisk and Bascom decided to grow more of it this year.
Also new at Owl Wood’s stall is ginger. Fisk and Bascom planned to grow a small amount for themselves. When that small amount became quite prolific, they decided to bring it to market to test it out. Says Fisk: “If it goes over well, we might grow more next year.”