All is not fresh at the farmers market

Union Square NYC

I was watching a tv show on farmers markets and someone said, “Buy Local. Buy Fresh.” But I found out a few years ago that that is not always the case. One of my favorite farmers markets is the Green Market at Union Square in New York City. It’s my first stop when I get to New York and it’s a Saturday morning ritual. It’s where I get my first Mr. Softee ice cream of the summer and where I see fall pumpkins for the first time, also where I see Christmas trees being sold for the first time of the season.

But is everything straight from the farm? I’ve always pictured all those vendors trudging down from their upstate New York or Long Island farms, setting up and selling their fresh fruit, veggies, flowers, pies, honey, etc. But a few Novembers ago, I stopped at one booth to buy a small bottle of eggnog. I grabbed the bottle from the ice chest and handed the guy the money. There was no one else at the booth and he was standing in the center of a foldout table, you know, one of those 6′ x 3′ tables?

Well, he wouldn’t take the money. I tried to shove it in his hand, but he refused. He told me to stand in the center of the table on the 6′ side; I was at the 3′ end of it, where the cooler was. Again, there was no one else there and his hand was in reach of me handing him the money. Again, he said, “Stand in front of the table to pay me.” I got angry, put the drink down and walked away.

A few blocks away, I was walking by Eataly, the Italian grocery store at Madison Square, right across from the Flatiron Building, and I went in. I went to the dairy case and pulled out a small eggnog. It was the exact same company and bottle that the guy at the green market was selling. It had a homey name, Ronnybrook Farm, it was the same stuff for less money. This guy at the green market lost a sale because of his whatever it was, and he is selling corporate eggnog, which I pictured him making by hand in his Hudson Valley kitchen somewhere at his family’s Ronnybrook farm.

The New York Times describes Ronnybrook Farm’s as the “Dom Perignon” of dairy, so there is that, and they are in the Hudson Valley, so there is that, too.

After that I started noticing pies and fruit and things like that and realized anyone can sell at the farmer’s market, whether you own a farm or not. Just source your goodies, mark them up and sell away.

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