Jenn and I just got back from the Finger Lakes region of New York. We spent some time with wonderful friends who encouraged us to check out the famous Ithaca Farmer’s Market on Saturday.
It seems the local government and business owners have really gotten it together in Ithaca, the City of Waterfalls, and created a thriving farmer’s market people flock to. We had difficulty finding parking, but it was definitely worth the struggle.
The Ithaca Farmer’s Market is not what you’d typically expect when you think of the phrase “farmer’s market.” To start with, physically, it’s an open structure, with high roofs and open stalls. A boardwalk-like floor keeps things relatively clean, and mud is never an issue no matter how much it rains just outside the unwalled vendor areas. Although the usual portable toilets are outside, Ithaca has even built in a real restroom into the structure. Amazing.
A few of the many vendors we enjoyed included The Piggery, a family farm-owned butcher shop, which has not only a stall at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, but a deli across the street. Several vineyards were represented. We bought the White Horse Red from Bloomer Creek Vineyard, and the Rose. The Red really came into its own after a good hour of decanting. Although I’m not a big Rose fan, their’s was crisp and refreshing in the heat. The makers of Treleaven Wines, King Ferry, had a stall, too, and upon our friend’s recommendation, we got the Semi-Dry Riesling, which represented the Finger Lakes admirably. We also highly recommend Eve’s Cidery, which not only harkens back to a time when hard cider was the most popular alcoholic drink in the United States, but ramps it up with some incredible flavors our forefathers couldn’t even dream of.
Produce was, of course, not left out. Jenn picked out some great summer squash, which we grilled that evening. Along with two huge bags of produce we hauled out of the market, we were amazed at the diversity of vendors we were tempted by. Gorgeous original pottery was for sale by a ceramic artist, a photographer was hawking framed prints, and hand-woven rugs were available. A few floral stands were there, with beautiful arrangements, and original jewelry was available.
The structure sits at the south end of Cayuga Lake. Many vendors were selling prepared food—far more than your standard vegetables, cheeses, and breads you find at the typical farmers’ market. Everything from pizza to two very healthy curry vendors was available. We bought some Sri Lankan food, and went outside where we found live music, picnic benches, and over a thousand people watching crew races on the lake.
It was almost as if Faneuil Hall Marketplace had moved from Boston to Ithaca, but added an incredible array of fresh produce. If we had to nitpick, the only thing to complain about is the Ithaca Farmers’ Market Web site, which inexplicably features a scrolling window within the vendor directory page. The What’s New page has an unnecessary chronological landing page, forcing excessive click-throughs instead of being presented in a simple and effective blog style approach. Aside from these throwbacks to 1990′s Web design, the site is full of good information.
Back at the cottage we went running, took a lot of photos, and spent hours cooking all the goodies we found at the market. Our puggle Bijou went into Cayuga Lake, and for the first time, in depth above her head. A natural swimmer, Jenn and I even shot video while we swam with her. It was a solid warmup for other trips we have planned for the rest of the summer. Stay tuned for more recipes from these travel plans.
We were amazed by the variety and the professionalism the entire operation at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market was run with. We have yet to attend a more well-organized farmer’s market. Farmers’ market organizers around the world should go to Ithaca and observe how it’s done right. Bravo, City of Waterfalls.