May 31, 2015 was zero hour for regular vendors and organizers of the venerable New Paltz Farmers’ Market: Would patrons realize that their favorite place to buy healthful, sustainable, locally grown produce on a Sunday morning or afternoon still existed, but had relocated to the Community Center parking lot off Route 32 North, on account of the Rock and Snow construction site taking up most of its previous location? Would they still find their way to the Market, even though it was no longer situated in the walkable village center? Would the operation remain viable, or shrivel up after all these successful years?
The weather — always a factor in whether a vendor in an outdoor booth has a good day or a bad day — was not very cooperative, with lowering skies and a downpour in the early afternoon putting a literal damper on business. But still, the three vendors who showed up weren’t complaining. Kelly Cleary-Gersec of the BeauRust Flower Shop, who is one of the organizers of the Farmers’ Market this year, didn’t even seem to mind the rain, even though she had not set up a canopy over her cut-flower stand, “We’re all about nature here,” she joked. “We were really busy. We did really well this morning. Then the rain came.”
In fact, said Cleary-Gersec, “I’m really very excited about [the new location]. I used to have a flower shop in the Water Street Market, and the common complaint was not enough parking…. It’s not as centrally located as the other site, but there’s a parking lot!”
Ayelet Singer, one of the farm managers at Four Winds Farm in Gardiner, agreed that business that morning had been “pretty good. The signs on 32 are good at bringing people in. We sold a lot of our crops today. It has been slow and steady.”
By 2 p.m., an hour before closing time, the Four Winds booth had already sold out of several items. But there were still several different types of lettuce, arugula, asparagus, chard and kale — everything certified organic. Shelves were loaded with seedlings just begging to be transplanted into vegetable beds: peppers both hot and sweet, kale and basil and a dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
Brandywine, Sungold and San Marzano aren’t that tough to find anymore, but where else can you buy a fine strapping baby Blue Beech Paste tomato plant? They had Black Krim and Yellow Brandywine, Paul Robeson and Golden Jubilee, Green Zebra and amino-rich Peacevine, Tang and Cherokee Purple and Trucker’s Favorite. The selection was enough to make an apartment-dweller pine away with longing for a garden of one’s own.
Herb Van Baren of Oliverea Maple has been around the New Paltz Farmers’ Market long enough to have survived several moves. The Market was hosted on the grounds of the Elting Library when he first started, 12 years ago. “New Paltz has been very good to me,” he said. So was the snowy winter, since sunny days and a blanket of white insulating maple tree roots are the perfect combo for freely running sap. “We had a good crop this year: about 1,200 gallons, from 4,000 trees. But we got a late start. Forty days of work, with no days off…. Every year the weather gets more unpredictable.”
While the Community Center parking lot looked a little forlorn under dark skies with only three booths open, Cleary-Gersec expressed confidence that the following Sunday would be better as word-of-mouth gets out. More vendors were expected, she said. “Several farmers didn’t feel that they had enough product to sell yet. We usually get about ten.” She added that next time the Market will set up in the old Town Hall lot, within view of passing motorists on Route 32, instead of tucked back out of sight. “Today was just the dress rehearsal,” she said with a smile.
The New Paltz Farmers’ Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., every Sunday through November 22. I’m marking my calendar for heirloom tomato harvest time!