All posts by jublass

Beacon Farmer’s Market

By Julia Blass

For my independent field trip, I went to the Beacon farmers market. Located right off of Main St., this farmers market operated by Common Ground farm operates year-round, and is open every Sunday. The fact that this market operates year-round is somewhat unique, and gives local farmers a consistent place to sell their goods. Despite the weather being rather cold and damp, there were still lots of people out to purchase local products at what I learned was a weekend staple of the town of Beacon. The market seemed to draw locals as well as outsiders like myself, as I saw some people having familiar conversations with vendors and others like myself seeing everything for the first time.  As it is still fairly early in the season and many fruits and vegetables are not yet ready for harvest, many of the vendors were bread and pastry sellers, prepared food sellers, or sellers of added-value products such as jams, pickles, and soaps as well as local wool products. There were also some interesting local products I had never heard of before, such as chocolate goat’s milk! I stopped to buy a strawberry rhubarb pie from Wright’s farm stand, an operation based in Gardiner that was selling baked goods and beautifully packaged fruit preserves. I also stopped for a pastry from local Beacon business Bread Alone, who are one of the farmers market’s year-round vendors. The farmers market also seemed to partner with a weekly flea market taking place in the next door lot, which proved to have some interesting finds.


The Beacon farmers market has some unique qualities that set it apart from other farmers markets that I’ve been to in the past. They have a compost collection stand run by local business Zero to Go, with the goal of making the market a zero-waste event each week. You can bring your compost to the farmers market for drop off, and Zero to Go also provides garbage and recycling bins to accurately sort and dispose of waste responsibly each week. Additionally, the Beacon farmers market allows the use of food benefit programs, which helps make local agricultural products more accessible to a wider demographic, as traditionally local agricultural products are more expensive than their conventional, imported counterparts. Being able to use food benefits such as SNAP, WIC, or FMNP checks is a huge step forward for making locall-sourced nutritious fruits and vegetables available on a wider level. Additionally, people who use these benefits at the farmers market can get bonus coupons to spend at the market. For example, for every $5 spent through SNAP, one would receive an extra $2 Fresh Connect check to use at the market. The Beacon farmers market also has benefits for WIC and FMNP, a unique programs called Greens4Greens. Under this program, every $4 spent through WIC or FMNP awards the user a $4 coupon to buy fresh fruits or vegetables at the market.

The Beacon farmers market struck me as a fine example for other farmers markets around the region to follow. In class we have often talked about how local produce is a difficult business for both the farmers who produce the food to maintain, as the demand for local products is often limited to certain demographics such as high-end restaurants or more upscale farmers markets. The use of food benefits at farmers market is a phenomenon that is just starting out, but the success of the Beacon farmers market is inspiring for the hopeful eventual spread of similar programs across the region and maybe even across the country.

For more information on the farmer’s market, their website is available here .

Letterbox Farm Collective – by Julia and Greg

The Letterbox Farm Collective, located up in Hudson, is a young farm worked by young farmers growing organic vegetables and meats. The farm was founded in 2014, when the 64-acre property was purchased with the help of ambitious fundraising events as well as crowdfunding and the Young Farmers Grant from New York State. The farm is run by Faith, Laszlo, and Nichki, three young farmers committed to sustainable farming and running their farm in almost a co-op business model. In just a short time, the team at Letterbox has grown the business from neglected lands into something marketable and economically viable, providing high quality produce and meats to the Hudson Valley and even as far south as Manhattan.

We were greeted by Moo, the friendly and excitable farm sheepdog, as we arrived, and then Faith led us on a tour of the fields, greenhouses, and livestock houses. The farm produces primarily for restaurants (including the farm-to-table restaurants in Hudson), for farm markets, and also for local CSAs. About 80% of the farm’s revenue comes from wholesale selling to restaurants and the farmer’s markets, with only about 20% coming from the CSAs. The team at Letterbox works year-round, with over 300 plantings a year. Faith showed us the peas that had just been planted, as well as microgreens, beets, scallions, herbs, and turnips, all growing in the greenhouses. In addition to these businesses, to help increase profits the farm acts as a venue for weddings as well as a site for a rural Airbnb. Faith also works as an agricultural educator, teaching (and learning) about market gardening and cooperative farming. All of their hard work has really paid off, as their sales have grown 19 times since the farm’s founding in 2014.

The farm crew works with small equipment, densely growing their crops on small plots of land in order to maximize yield from a given space.  They implement various methods to ensure that the soil remains nutrient rich; these include ground cover and various methods of fertilization, including a chicken tractor which deposits chicken manure as it moves across the farm. Small scale farms require this imported fertility, as the land is farmed intensively.  Another method for maintaining fertility is crop choice; for example, Faith showed us their pea crop, which fixes nitrogen and increases soil nutrients for the next crop. Market gardening, the business model that Letterbox Farm has adopted, tend to make more money per acre due to their farming techniques and crop choices.  Overall, the farm dedicates 3 of its 64 acres to intensive vegetable production.

One of the keys to the Letterbox Farm Collective’s success has been its establishment of many “enterprises,” as Faith calls them.  In addition to produce, the farm also raises meat chickens, pigs, and rabbits. About 80 birds per week are raised and processed on the farm’s pasture system.  With so many different endeavors taking place on a relatively small property, Faith admitted that the greatest challenge on the farm is creating consistent and efficient systems so that all enterprises can run smoothly without unnecessary challenges.  As we know, depending upon the weather for crop production is already challenge enough.

We ended the trip by visiting downtown Hudson, home of the world’s most expensive antique shops, as well as several ice cream parlors that don’t serve ice cream until May.  A quaint and aesthetically pleasing town, it was very interesting to observe the type of restaurants to which Letterbox sells of its produce.

Goat Friend

Julia and a goat at Sprout Creek Farm

Hi! My name is Julia and I’m an Environmental Studies major and a French Correlate and I’m from Arlington, MA.  Shortly after this photo was taken, this goat almost succeeded in eating the zipper off my jacket.