After a difficult year during the COVID-19 pandemic, local farmers, artisans and farmers’ markets have experienced a resurgence of enthusiasm for local buying and shopping.
According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, demand for markets goes beyond last year and the past decade – the state has more than 400 farmers’ markets, 250 stalls of farm and 10 mobile markets, all of which have grown at a “rapid rate” over the past decade, according to the ministry’s website. But local farmers say they have seen increased sales and interest in their produce since the start of the pandemic.
Columbia County is currently home to seven agricultural markets and stalls, two of which operate year-round, according to the department’s website, while Greene County has five.
Jeff Friedman, president and executive director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, said farmers’ markets have been busy this summer and the chamber has seen a slight increase in the number of local manufacturers joining.
âWe certainly think so and have seen a growing trend in all of the hamlets and towns in our county that are seeing more and more of these moms and dads physically making products in the county, and it’s been a really good one as a result. , pulled in the arm of the local economy, âFriedman said.
Alex Johnk, president of the Greene County Youth Fair and owner of Johnk Family Farm in Greenville, said during the pandemic his beef and pork farm stand saw demand double.
Johnk said the spike could be attributed to people concerned about shopping at grocery stores.
âIt’s a smaller crowd. It’s open spaces, it’s kind of a more heartwarming atmosphere, âJohnk said. âThe pandemic, when it first hit, and the packaging factories were shutting down and everything. There was a lot of food insecurity and people really wanted to reconnect to get things locally. “
Brent Zimmerman, owner of Lime Kiln Farm in Coxsackie, has his beef, lamb and olive oil products in Coxsackie and Copake markets, and he said the growing number of markets popping up in the area made it difficult to choose where to sell.
âIt’s hard to decide which ones to do because some are more popular than others and obviously we have to make the most of our day because we’re so busy,â Zimmerman said. âSo if you take six hours of your day to make a deal, it has to pay off. “
Zimmerman said in his experience, the loss of restaurant and store sales during the pandemic was offset by increased sales at farmers’ markets.
âIt’s just that more people are happier and compelled to cook at home and rediscover the pleasure of cooking,â Zimmerman said.
This year in particular, Zimmerman said he appreciates markets more than he did two years ago because customers are friendlier and genuinely care about his produce and his farm.
âMaybe there was a little reset button to be a neighbor again,â he said.
Despite local support, Zimmerman said farming via COVID-19 is still “a tough game” with rising costs for gas, feed and hay.
For some, the pandemic has served as an inspiration to bring communities together through locally grown produce and handicrafts. Sam Duncan founded the Two Ladies Market in January, which takes place the first and third Saturday of every month at Greenville Drive-In, when she realized the locals needed something to get them out of the house.
The market initially received 300 requests from vendors, Duncan said, and every Saturday between 40 and 50 sell products such as wildflower arrangements, local honey, crystals, baked goods, meat and produce. , among others.
Duncan, who also makes goat’s milk products from her farm, said the community has come out and come back every weekend for items they’ve found they love.
âThis is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of something – but not for me as a craftsman too – for the whole community to come together and do this for Greenville,â she said.