It’s that time of year again. Time to enjoy life without layers, time to enjoy the extended days and time to enjoy the bounty of our local farmers’ harvests. And in the North Country, it’s easy to do all three.
Last Saturday, many farmers markets throughout the region, including the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market, opened for the season. They will continue to spring up like wildflowers, and the ones that didn’t open last week will be opening soon enough, with the final stragglers ready for business by the end of June.
It’s true that many fruits and vegetables won’t be ready until later in the season, but a visit to a farmers market this time of year will reveal more than fresh produce. Beneath the bustling pavilion at the Plattsburgh farmers market, the vendors proudly stand by their wares, products like candles, jewelry, soaps, art, honey, wine, Adirondack chairs and wildflower teas. Their products might not have been harvested in the same way an apple is plucked from a tree, but they were all crafted locally, by people many consider to be family, friends or neighbors.
This time of year there is a sparse selection of straight-from-the-ground edibles available, too, such as some of the hardier leafy greens and a few plants harvested from our local forests, like wild leeks and wild ginger. As summer continues, the variety of veggies will only increase as crops reach their peak, and the best part is, their yield is not only delicious—it’s affordable.
We have written about the benefits of buying local before, and that sentiment is still as important now as it was in the past. But farmers markets aren’t entirely self-serving. Sure, the farmers and crafters benefit from an increase in sales, and why shouldn’t they? They are providing us with healthy food grown in a sustainable manner at a low cost, but the function of these markets also serves the consumer, and the community.
Take a trip to downtown Plattsburgh this Saturday and see for yourself. There is a feeling of intimacy there, a connection as the buyer speaks to the producer first hand and learns about how the product came to be. The smooth surface of that black walnut bowl wasn’t mass produced in a factory somewhere overseas, it was made by hand from a tree that was destined for a wood chipper. The grapes used to make that wine are cold-hardy, much like the citizens of our region. There is a woman living in the town of Keene who makes soaps, bath salts and bug balms, and she will tell you all about how her concoctions can relieve stress, tension, and insect bites.
Through those interactions, farmers markets begin to take on a greater purpose and become a community gathering space where relationships, and trust, are formed between the consumer and the producer. Try speaking to one of the many farmers present and ask him or her questions. Some will offer advice on gardening, and others can tell you about their Community Supported Agriculture program, where consumers can purchase a share of the farm and receive a bounty of goods each week. In many cases, it’s like purchasing your vegetables for the year all at once. Some CSA’s offer meat, maple syrup, honey, milk and cheeses, too. And for those who need assistance, most local farmers markets accept food stamps and WIC coupons.
But the benefits of farmers markets don’t end at the pavilion. Since visitors to the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market are already downtown, many of them will grab a bite to eat or explore some of Plattsburgh’s many fine businesses while they are there. The draw of the market also draws people to those places, and in the process it neatly ties together many of the things most Plattsburgh residents desire—a thriving downtown built upon a high quality of life, high quality local products, and a strong sense of community.
The Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market is held every Saturday, from 9 a.m.–2 p.m., at the Farmers Market Pavilion, located by Bridge, Durkee and Broad streets downtown. For more information, visit plattsburghfarmersandcraftersmarket.com. To find a farmers market near you, visit adirondackharvest.com and look under the “Local Food Maps” tab.