One of the many pleasures of living in the Hudson Valley is being surrounded by farms. There are ample ways to eat local. There are farmers’ markets. You could buy a share in a farm, which is a system called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). There are small markets that stock locally grown produce. You could frequent the shops many farmers are now setting up on their farms – some of them still operate on the honor system. Some of them are even 24/7, like us! As you shop, you tally what you take and stick your cash in a locked box. You can even buy a ticket for an on-farm dinner – regional chefs partner with farms to make these one-night-only restaurant alternatives. And, of course, you can grow your own food.
While local produce is available year round – some farms sell winter shares and a few farmers’ markets have winter hours – it’s easiest and most pleasurable to eat locally from last frost to first frost. Farmers’ markets re-open outdoors weekly in May with sparse amounts of asparagus and foraged ramps. By June, the markets are overflowing and remain this way straight through to Thanksgiving.
MAKE YOUR 2019 PLAN
Now’s the time to plan how you’d like to experience the fullest range of the 2019 growing season – from first-of-season mizuna to mid-summer cherries to winter squash. If you’re not familiar with what grows when, check out Rondout Valley Growers ‘seasons at a glance’ infographic.
Or ask a farmer. They know best. We asked our former employee Maggie Thomas the timing of her plantings and harvest at Great Song Farm, her new CSA venture. Here’s what she had to say:
“In June, people can expect to choose from pink beauty radishes, arugula, lacinato kale, hakurei turnips, head lettuce, spinach, broccoli rabe, summer squash, scallions, snap peas, snow peas, and hopefully some herbs as well. In late June, the greenhouse cukes will be ready.
Come July, we will begin harvesting string beans, Chinese cabbage, rainbow chard, beets, frisee, and carrots in addition to many of the June items. In mid-July, tomato harvest will begin! We’re growing a variety of cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes. In August, the sweet and hot peppers will be coming on. We’re growing some delicious heirloom varieties: Carmen, Jimmy Nardello (a sweet, red frying pepper), and padrones (which are like shishitos but, we think, better). Shortly thereafter, the eggplants will be ready to harvest.”
She also has flowers to pick: zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers, among other beauties. Heaven.
HOW TO SHOP LOCALLY
The ideal way to eat local is to stock your fridge with a mix of farmers’ market finds and CSA bounty, supplemented with what’s available at local co-ops and stores, plus your own homegrown goods. Maybe that’s just herbs or easy-to-grow things like peas and cucumbers. There are many options. Here are some ideas for enjoying them all. These lists are by no means exhaustive. What’s your favorite farm, market, store, or seedling sale? Let us know and we’ll update our lists.
From big (Kingston, Hudson, Rhinebeck) to smaller (New Paltz, Rosendale), there’s something to be found in all of our local farmers’ markets. If you’re looking for a market in a town closer to you, search this Rondout Valley Growers map. The wonderful thing about farmers’ markets is you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for, from standards like broccoli to lesser-known varieties of greens. If you like to try new vegetables or experiment with herbs you have never used before, a farmers’ market is your spot. Plus you can always talk to someone face to face about their growing — and spraying — practices, if that’s of concern. And it’s one-stop shopping; most markets offer more than vegetables: there’s locally grown fruit, eggs, honey, syrup, dairy, wine, beer, prepared foods, jams, baked goods, skin care, and more.
Community supported agriculture is a system that benefits farmers and farm members alike. Members buy a share in a local farm, traditionally in the fall before the next growing season, giving farmers money to use for seeds, equipment, and more. Members also provide farmers financial security, acting as an insurance policy of sorts in case of bad weather or any number of possible pitfalls. In return, members reap the benefits during growing season, especially when there are bumper crops. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
You can buy a full share or a half share in a farm. Some farms cater to members who aren’t interested in either. Instead of paying several hundreds of dollars up front, members can pre-buy a farm card for around $100. Come growing season, you use your farm card to shop for whatever you want in the farm store, refilling your pre-paid farm card with money whenever you run low. It’s a smaller commitment, and you support the farm a little bit at a time.
Some CSA farms deliver a box of goods to you, others allow members to come pick their shares up. If you join a CSA with on-farm pick-up, members are often also allowed to pick berries, herbs, and flowers themselves. Each farm offers something different.
If you like to can or freeze food during the summer for winter, look for a CSA farm that offers “uglies” and or “seconds” to members. A farmer might not be able to sell a bruised tomato at a farmers’ market, but it’s just the thing for a member’s sauce-making sessions come late August/early September.
If you are interested in buying a 2019 share, some farms are still accepting members. To find one near you, check out Hudson Valley CSA Coalition. Everyone has a favorite. Here are some CSA farms currently on our radar, but there are many more. Find one that works for you, taking into account proximity, the kinds of crops being grown, and growing practices. Then decide if you want to be a full member, buy a half share, or opt-in with a farm card.
Great Song Farm, Red Hook (run by a former Applestone staffer, as mentioned, photo below)
Evolutionary Organics, New Paltz
Little Seed Gardens, Chatham
Huguenot Street Farm, New Paltz
Solid Ground Farm, Kingston
Taliaferro Farms, New Paltz (they have pre-paid farm cards)
CO-OPS & SHOPS
Many stores in the Hudson Valley carry local produce in season. Sometimes you have to search for it nestled among non-local lettuce and peaches. If you want to eat local, keep in mind those charts of what is growing here and when. There’s no such thing as a large local nectarine in May.
Some of our go-to markets with local produce are below. We’re also looking forward to the Kingston Food Co-Op, which is currently enrolling members and raising funds to open a grocery store for members as well as the public.
High Falls Food Co-Op, High Falls
Rolling Grocer 19, Hudson
Davenport Farms, Stone Ridge
Barthel’s Farm Market, Ellenville
Walkill View Farm Market, New Paltz
Saunderskill Farm, Accord
Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, Ghent
Ravenwood Farm Shop, Kerhonksen
GROW YOUR OWN
Anyone can grow food (though some do it a lot better than others). Find a sunny spot, make sure your dirt is safe (test it for lead and other contaminants) and nutritious enough for plants to grow, grab some seeds and seedlings, and go for it. If you don’t have access to a good spot, or any spot, you can rent one in a community garden. You have to call around and see who has plots available. Start with New Paltz Gardens for Nutrition, a non-profit organic community garden. At 2019 prices, a full plot 20′ by 30’ is $45, with reduced fees for seniors/disabled. You can also get a half plot.
There are many places to buy seeds. We’re fans of Hudson Valley Seed Company. They also have a great yearly seedling sale, as does Four Wind Farms in Gardiner, Seed Song Farm in Kingston, Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonksen, and so many others—just keep your eyes out and ears open.