Managing a Farmers Market: An Insider’s Story

*By: Christi Shingara*

Photos: Christi Shingara

We all love our local farmers market, but did you ever want to know what it takes to manage one? I got a chance to sit down with Jackie Wood who manages the Saugerties Farmers Market in the Hudson River Valley. She talks about how she became a manager, some of her favorite things at the market, upcoming plans and much more!

Jackie Wood (Photo: Christi Shingara)

How did you become a manager of a farmers market? 

Last fall I represented Edenesque out of Kingston, NY at the Saugerties Farmers Market, I worked a few Saturday’s as a company representative and sold their amazing nut and oat milks. That was how I got linked up with Judith Spektor, the market’s committee chair and founder. We stayed in touch through the winter and she pitched the Market Manager position to me. It ended up being a great fit!

How long have you managed the market?

This is my first season managing the market. I relocated to the Hudson Valley last growing season. Being new to the mid-Hudson Valley, the market has given me incredible access to the dozen farmers we work with. It has really helped me better understand the greater narrative of the regional food system here in the Hudson Valley as a young farmer and local food advocate. 

What is your favorite part about being a manager for the market?

We are now past the half way point of our season and I realize my favorite part is my interactions with our vendors. We try to create a collaborative environment for them through mitigating too much overlap in products and offerings.  I notice this attention to detail really gives a lot of licensing to our vendors to collaborate. We see this through our hot food vendors using farmer’s produce and meats in their daily specials, added value products made in collaboration and farmers wearing each others swag. We are a microcosm of the thriving food system here in the Hudson Valley. 

What are some of your favorite things at the farmer’s market?

I really can’t get enough of the tacos from Brave the Flames, Chef Chris Arquiett is new to the market scene and we are lucky to have him and his team. I am also blown away by our farmers; seasonal fruit from third generation Maynard Farm, Certified Naturally Grown vegetables from Fiddlehead Farm, and truly some of the highest quality grass fed and finished beef from Gulden Farm. There are too many things to name! 

Tell me about some of the vendors you have at the market.

One vendor that I just adore is The Lone Duck Farm, all season I have been amazed by their capacity to care and provide for their customers. This goes beyond providing high integrity vegetables, eggs and meat— it’s a weekly check in for people to feel cared for and seen. Farmer and owner Lisa Motzer embodies generosity and a fervor for agriculture that we need more of in imagining communities that center around our farmers. 

Do you have certain criteria to be a vendor?

Something that I have observed and learned working with the Saugerties Farmers Market’s committee is that the markets 20-year tagline of “Fresh and Local” is not simply a ploy. Yes, we have vendors from all around the Hudson Valley, but what most people don’t realize is that if there is space for a new vendor or product we want to have in market, we think critically about if there is anyone creating such a product in Saugerties. Saugerties comes first! There is so much integrity in considering the needs of this community while supporting farmers and local creatives. 

Fall is right around the corner, what fall produce will the market feature?

We haven’t even begun to see some fall favorites like heirloom squash, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage and apples! Something most people don’t realize is that fall is an amazing time to get your greens locally. With less intense weather, greens of all varieties thrive.

What is especially unique about this particular farmer’s market?

This a place that people gather. Additionally, I think it’s such an easy market to visit, we have ample free parking on site and with just about 25 vendors its a very approachable assortment of goods. We have live music every week and I kept hearing from our musicians that our market was their favorite! I started to ask, why? The answer was always the same: Our in market cafe is positioned directly across from the musicians, which makes for an engaged and immersive experience for customers and musicians alike. We have so much fun! 

What goals do you have for the market? Expansion? etc.

A lot of my goals this year have been to convey the markets unique message in the digital space. Social media can be such a powerful tool. I work to keep our followers informed on guest vendors, what’s fresh and any special events we have in store. 

The market is celebrating its 20th season in service to the Saugerties Community. Some unique offerings are the annual Farm Animal Day where we bring the farm to the market, additionally we are in the midst of our Harvest Home Dinner series. This is our annual fundraiser where local people welcome small groups of participants into their homes for a locally inspired meal put on by area chefs. The homes and meals are equally spectacular and the opportunity to gather safely with different people in the community feels like more of a gift then ever in these uniquely challenging times. 

The Saugerties Farmers Market is a non-profit and we accept donations year round with different levels of sponsorship! All donations support our staff, live music, renowned Kids Art Corner and free events. 

What other projects have you been working on besides the market?

Aside from my work at the market, I have been managing a new farm project in High Falls. We are situated on 70 acres of pristine pasture with views of the Shawangunk mountains. I oversee a 1/2 acre market garden and tend to a newly planted orchard, old growth trees and everything in-between. I love being in the beginning phases of a project.  I work to help farmers do better business through identifying business values and the community they serve then translating that into project plans and strategy. 

Personally, I am developing my craft in preserving food through drying, canning and fermentation. Although our New York growing season is short, I believe we are provided with all we need for the year, it’s just that the art of planning and preservation has simply been lost in our massive food supply chains. Don’t get me wrong, I love a California avocado from time to time, but a can of tomatoes from the summer garden in February feeds the soul in a way that is impossible to describe in words.   

Love going to your area farmers market? Let me know in the comments below.

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