It's Market Day!
By Nisa Cooper
A farmer's market is a feast for the senses and the Pakatakan Farmer's Market is a four star feast. Located at the Round Barn on Route 30, going north from Margaretville, the Pakatakan Farmer's Market draws visitors from a wide geographic area, luring them with its bounteous regional fare. The Market is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., from mid-May through the Columbus Day Weekend in October. It offers its customers not only fresh, delicious food products but also unique and lovely crafts, flowers and plants, herbs and hand-made soaps and cosmetic products. With ample parking, barn and pavilion protection and handicap accessibility, it is a wonderful way for everyone to spend pleasant hours on a Saturday, rain or shine.
Every vendor displays some of the most tantalizing products available to the area. First, there is Balcolm's Farm stand, laden with gorgeous plants, seedlings and produce. They are welcoming and helpful with their information about their offerings. Next, you can't help but be distracted by a booth on your left where Art, who runs it for Roxbury Gardens, gives passersby a hearty hello and chats about the weather and about how it's always good, whatever it may be. Already having loaded up with items from Balcolm's, you spot a couple of flowering hanging baskets that you absolutely must have and are sure that if you don't buy them now, they might be gone when you circle back. Art will gladly put aside these purchases for you to pick up later.
Next to Roxbury Gardens, there is the Beaverkill Trout Hatchery booth, where Sherry, smiling and joking with her customers, manages also to pick out the right fish for one, give change to another and discuss an upcoming wedding menu that will include the Hatchery's luscious smoked trout. In a rare, quiet moment, she tells me that she loves doing the market because it brings her into contact with so many nice people. She said, "It's rather like Cheers, you know," like an extended family with other vendors and regular customers. Art agrees, adding that he runs his booth because it's fun. You can easily see by these two that they love what they do. Sherry explains that the hatchery is in fact just that. They breed and raise their own trout to stock private concerns around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They also provide restaurants with fresh and smoked trout. The Catskill environment is perfect for their year-round enterprise and their fish exemplifies that perfection.
Moving on into the Round Barn, which is a historic site, I met Dennis Hill, the president of the Pakatakan Farmer's Market board. At his Shaver Hill Farm's booth of maple syrup products, he explains a bit of the market's history. It began originally in the pavilion behind the A&P ten years ago, thanks to funding made available by the M-Ark Project, a local economic development organization, which has over the years helped many businesses, individuals and community groups make this area a thriving place. Five years later, the market was invited by the Round Barn to use its newly reconstructed structure. To have a weatherproofed home was an attractive advantage for the Market. Then, as the Market grew to its present size of 25 to 30 vendors, a pavilion was added at the site. He points out that the diversity of high quality products is an important reason for the Market's success. Some of the vendors have been with the market since its inception and new purveyors are always joining the venture.
As I walked around the barn, I was tempted by breads and other baked goods, handicrafts and jewelry, herbal essential oils and potpourri, jams, conserves and marmalades. The last three were lined up as gleaming jarred gems in John and Charlotte Smits's booth. Homemade by the Smits, their "JC Menagerie" fruit concoctions are preservative-free and taste as fresh and fulsome as the gardens they come from. They also prepare enticing fruit pies and pastries. Grey Mouse Farm's flavored mustards are a must to buy. My city friends stock up on tasty delights such as jams and pickles when they come to visit. They say there are none so good back in the Big Apple's boutique food shops. That is also why the people flock to Sherman Hill's goat cheese table in the pavilion. The creamy, tangy logs of cheese don't last long around my house, to the point where I've taken to freezing some for those times when I've run out when the Market isn't open.
What makes all the products at the market so special is the care and hard work that goes into producing them. Kathy and Robert Harris of Currytown Farm are prime examples of this standard. They've run their farm for twenty-one years and are devoted to the excellence of the breeding and feeding of their animals. Their customers seek them out at the market for their high quality natural pork products. Arrowhead Farms carries pasture-bred chickens that graze on clover and carefully chosen, non-additive grain. The flavor of Arrowhead's chickens has nothing in common with chemically treated supermarket chicken.
Two of the new vendors this season at the Market are happy additions to this community. John Fairbairn is so diligent about his enterprise that he comes home from college on weekends during maple syrup time. And Scott Finley's Sweet Sinsations are truly so. He was nearly sold out by the time I reached his booth. His rustic apple tart and chocolate orange tart go fast, so buy early. He, like many of the other vendors, will put aside your purchases till you've finished your shopping. In fact, smart marketers learn to get to the market early to ensure purchases of products that are in high demand, such as fresh eggs, strawberries and items from Bread Alone.
At this point, viewing all this tempting food, I am famished. I head back to the food stand indulge myself with a resonantly spicy Herbie Burger, made of ground lamb and then over to the waffle stand for a warm, crunchy dessert waffle. And it's impossible for me to pass up on Neil's exquisite bouquet creations. They grace dinner parties throughout the counties. His flowering plants are lush and hearty, and I find that if I didn't think my garden needed any more plants, it does when I see his.
As I'm leaving the market laden with my finds, I run into Georgie Fairlie, who oversees the Market's operation. As always, she's running from here to there, talking to vendors and answering inquiries from customers. I ask her how it's going and she says, "Great! Best season yet." In addition to all the products we see, there are upcoming events. For example, Rich Parisio of the Department of Environmental Conservation will be conducting a program on wild plant lore on July 14th and August 4th. For more information about the Pakatakan Farmers' Market and its various offerings, call (845) 586-4177.
Pakatakan Market Saturdays are a thoroughly sensory experience, a feast of raw produce to finished products. From the displays, to the tastings, to the wonderful conversations, I always look forward to next Saturday.