In 1817, the Historic Elmendorph Inn was the location of the combined Dutchess County and Columbia County Agricultural Fair. Following in that tradition, the current Red Hook Winter Market provides a wonderful variety of local products, live music, and warm vittles.
When the first Red Hook Winter Market opened to an enthusiastic crowd in 2008, only four dates were scheduled. Each year since, due to its popularity, the season has been extended and the market dates increased. This season began on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the market is now open every other Saturday until April 6, from 10am to 2pm.
Robert McKeon, one of the founders and still very much a part of the phenomenon, noted, “This market is unique in that it was a success from Day One — and the first winter market in this part of the Hudson Valley.”
While the concept would seem perfectly suited to any agricultural community, great care was taken to ensure that a central market would not “cannibalize” the farm stands that are integral to the income of local farmers. The town’s Agricultural and Open Space Committee was organized at the turn of this century to protect open space and the industry of local agriculture, and its members seriously addressed this concern.
“We had conceived many initiatives to preserve farm land and help the farmer,” said McKeon. “Luckily, one of the committee members suggested a winter, rather than year-round, market. We approached the Elmendorph, since that particular space represents rich local history and is well-suited as a community center and educational facility. I think it’s been a great community service in connecting people to the history and the character of the institution.”
Among the items available at the market are apples, pears, ciders, vegetables (including freeze-packed veggies), chicken, beef, turkey, sausages, locally-baked breads, desserts, soups, sandwiches, fresh flowers, wines, jams and pies, all produced by local businesses and farms.
“We expanded the scope of the market to include local charities and showcase local musicians,” McKeon added. Historic artifacts are displayed throughout the Elmendorph, and local art is something the organizers want to include in the future. “Now, when someone supports the Red Hook Winter Market, they’re not only helping out their local farmer but also the community as a whole.”
One of the charities represented is the Red Hook United Methodist Church food pantry, whose “Hand to Mouth Weavers” sell their beautiful handmade woven bags and rugs to raise funds. And the Hearty Roots Community Farm regularly donates produce to area food pantries.
Ben Shute, owner and farm manager of Hearty Roots, said, “We have been a vendor every season since the beginning. The Red Hook Winter Market is an important gathering place in the village, where people can purchase local food and support Red Hook’s farmers when farm stands and CSA’s are not active.”
The market gives first preference to Red Hook vendors; others are chosen from areas close by to achieve an overall complement of products.
“We donate space to any not-for-profit organizations, otherwise there is a small fee, depending on the size of the display,” McKeon said. “We have rotated vendors throughout the years to keep the market as fresh as the produce.”
“Come meet your friends at the market,” he added. “Everybody loves hanging out with their neighbors, buying stuff, listening to the music. It’s exactly why many of us live in a small community.”
Red Hook Winter Market
at the Elmendorph Inn
7562 North Broadway
Feb. 9, 23; Mar. 9, 23
10am – 2pm
Robert McKeon, Organizer