A Day at the Red Hook Winter Market

By the time most high school students roll out of bed on Saturday, seventeen year old Adele Craven is already talking to customers and putting the finishing touches on her display of hand crafted soaps and lotions. From behind the stacks of local goat’s milk soap and wicker baskets of homemade lip balm, she enthusiastically tells interested shoppers all about how her family’s small business got started. “We got our first goat more or less by accident,” she explains, “but now our dairy herd has about 23!” While Adele does not seem to mind being the one in charge of milking the animals early each morning, or at least does not let onto it in public, it was a challenge for her family to figure out what to do with the overwhelming amount of fresh milk. FDA regulations prevented them from selling the milk directly or making it into commercially available cheese. So Adele’s mother, Jade, got creative. Mixing the milk with finicky lye and various natural ingredients in a giant spaghetti pot, she whipped up batches of soft moisturizing soap and Cat’s View Farm was born.

Adele is certainly the youngest vendor at the Red Hook Winter Market; however, she is far from the only one. Now in its fourth season, the Winter Market has become a major draw for local farms, dairies, bakeries and local specialty food sellers. After picking up some unique soap from Adele’s Cat’s View Farm stand, one can stop by North Wind Farm or Grady’s to try some organically raised meat. Tivoli Bread and Baking and Gigi’s Market are there for people who can’t wait until they get home to try some of the delicious food. Migliorelli Farms, which closes its own farm stands after the fall season, is there with a store of cider, apples, pears and root vegetables.

Rounding out the market are various cheeses from Chaseholm Farm Creamery, snacks from Platte Clove Natural Granola, all sorts of pickles from Spacey Tracey’s and wine, syrup, honey and black current juice from Tousey Winery. Peter Destler, who started The Amazing Real Live Food Company at Chaseholm Farm along with his best friend after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, says the Winter Market has been getting bigger and better each year. “More vendors, new vendors, a great location and even live music,” he rattled off while weighing and wrapping a large order of Gruyere.

It was no surprise to see the Market packed this past Saturday. With great local products and only mild weather to contend with, it was a great day for shoppers and vendors alike. Even real winter weather is usually not enough to keep residents away from the market, however. Robert McKeon, the Winter Market Manager, remembers the first attempt to stage the Market came right after a harrowing ice storm four years ago. “The farmers and other vendors were already skeptical” McKeon said, “It had been hard enough to convince them that people would come to a farmer’s market in the middle of the winter, and there we were the day of the event and half of Red Hook still had no power thanks to the storm.” Nevertheless, the Market was full and it has been busy ever since. Aside from simply providing a great place to pick up local products, McKeon emphasized that the Market was about creating a greater awareness of agriculture within the larger community. As such, the Market has a Red Hook first policy. Invitations to sell at the Market are first extended to growers and producers located within Red Hook to make sure nearby businesses always have a spot. “If there is a hole in the Market, then we might extend the radius a bit, but we like to keep it as local as possible,” he reasoned.

In addition to small businesses, there is always a place saved at the Market for a non-profit or charity. This past Saturday, the volunteers from Hand to Mouth Weavers were there selling handmade woolen ware of all varieties. Janice Williams explained that all the proceeds from their sales go to local food pantries. The group, which consists of all volunteers, meets weekly to weave on four large looms located in the basement of Red Hook United Methodist Church. Williams says that the Winter Market has been a great way not only to make sales, but also to increase the visibility of her group’s work. Additionally, selling directly to shoppers means that all the money can go right to the charity instead of paying a commission to retailers. “It works out great for everyone,” she said as one of her colleagues demonstrated how to use a drop spindle in front of an interested crowd.

The warm feeling of the Winter Market is accentuated by its location. The gathering takes place within Red Hook’s oldest building, the Elmendorph Inn. Once slated for demolition, before being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the Inn provides the perfect atmosphere to foster a feeling of community. After all, its wooden floors and exposed ceiling beams have hosted important Red Hook events ever since the town was officially established in 1812. First used as an Inn and gathering place for travelers on the road between New York City and Albany in the late 1700’s, the building became host to Town Board meetings after Red Hook separated from Rhinebeck. The Dutchess and Columbia County Agricultural Fair was even held at the location throughout the 1800’s. After that, the building was used often as a store and even briefly as a school. It was this history of community events that inspired the planners of the Winter Market to choose the Inn as their location, and they have never looked back.

The Red Hook Winter Market takes place every second week throughout the season. Upcoming markets are on February 11th & 25th, March 10th and 24th and April 7th.

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