While no farmers’ market can compete with that of my hometown—the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the U.S., recently deemed one of the world’s 17 greatest food markets—the Arlington Farmers Market, just across the street from my four-week-old home of Vassar, has saturated the DCFM-shaped abyss in my heart both with generous farmers evoking familiar midwestern friendliness, and glowlingly fresh produce from the scenic Hudson Valley. The small-scale market offers, along with fruits and vegetables, a wide array of handcrafted goods—from silver necklace pendants to soap to maple-walnut peanut butter to dill-pickled brussels sprouts—every Thursday afternoon from 3:00-7:00. To my immense satisfaction, I often spot a good many Vassar students perusing the market during my local-produce-fulfilling jaunts—a hopeful sign of the younger generation’s growing curiosity with and appreciation of connecting with the food they eat.
Thanks to the Arlington Farmers Market’s compactness, I quickly developed a feel for the market’s vendors that established at which stands to purchase my weekly produce necessities, which I’d love to map out for you:
I spend my first market dollars at a dependably crowded tent, popular thanks to their wide selection of juicy fall fruit—such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and concord grapes—as well as their vast array of brilliantly hued heirloom tomato varietals, from Green Zebra to Brandywine, of which they offer succulent sample slices. A box of fruit, a generous pile of heirlooms, and perhaps a cucumber or an ear of corn usually find their way into my tote bag from this stand (the name of which I do not know), implemented in fruit-sweetened granola or salads throughout the week.
Next, I eagerly scamper over to the Phillies Bridge Farm Project to satisfy my every leafy-green-based desire, as well as to partake in a bunch of knobbly carrots or a pint of candy-like sungold tomatoes. Not only does Phillies Bridge supply me with verdant lacinato kale for smoothies and crisp mixed salad greens, they “feed hundreds of community members and engage over 2,500 people each year in the wonders of food production through our CSA, education, and community outreach programs,” playing an active role in the social justice realm of the farming world.
My deep adoration for everything pickled propels me toward two stands featuring impeccably canned veggies: Awesome Specialty and Perry’s Pickles. I’ve so far sampled Awesome’s spicy, tender slices of Kimchi Carrots, and Perry’s irresistably tangy sauerkraut, but I can hardly contain my excitement in purchasing a jar of Awesome’s Dilled Brussels Sprouts or Spicy Pickled Okra. Unfortunately, Perry’s classic kimchi, in which I would otherwise gladly partake, contains fish sauce for “authenticity,” while their pickled pineapple contains sugar. Darn those questionable ingredients!
While I don’t usually buy the goods offered by the Vermont Peanut Butter Company, I often gawk at their inspired flavor combinations, such as Maple Walnut, Cinnamon Raisin, and “Green Mountain Goodness” with flax and pumpkin seeds. On the downside, all of their flavors that contain chocolate also contain animal products, which intensely disappoints me seeing as I would happily sample a spoonful of their Champlain Cherry Almond Butter if not for its exploitative ingredients. I suppose I’ll just have to conduct some almond butter flavor experimentations of my own.
Though not always present at the market, Stephanie’s Gluten Free Delights offers tantalizing cupcake creations, many of which satisfy vegans as well as those with gluten intolerances. On this particular market venture, Stephanie boasted three vegan, gluten-free cupcakes: chocolate-cherry cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting (pictured above left), chocolate-raspberry cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and spiced carrot cake cupcakes with creamy coconut frosting.
Finally, Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery, a health-focused restaurant in Red Hook, sets up a stand headed by an eccentric white-haired man who somehow received the impression that I spearhead Slow Food Vassar, and has since pestered me about coordinating a campus World Food Day event in October (with my schedule? Sorry, buddy.). I forgive his nagging, though, due to his exciting selection of freshly brewed nettle and hibiscus teas, wheatgrass juice, salad mixes, dried cinnamon apple slices, and dehydrated kale, and thoroughly intend to visit his restaurant further upstate in the near future.
Every Thursday fills my soul with joy to pay homage to the Arlington Farmers Market, miniscule in comparison to my beloved DCFM, but welcoming, well-stocked, and community-oriented, nonetheless.
Comment Provoking Questions: How large is your local farmers market? Does it mostly boast produce or are there other specialty items? Do you follow your own “market map”?
Until next time, Ali.