BARRYVILLE, NY — “We’re all in this together but to survive, we must stay apart,” or so the saying goes. Six feet or more of social distancing is part of the prescription for overcoming our national coronavirus cataclysm. Nevertheless, the Barryville area community is more closely knit than ever, and its farmer’s market is currently serving one of the most important needs of our greater community; the safe and regular delivery of good, healthy, locally produced food and products. In large part, this is due to the persistence, foresight, and innovation of the group behind the newly re-constituted Barryville Farmer’s Market.
First, a bit of history. During the winter of 2019, local farm-fresh food enthusiasts were devastated to hear their farmer’s market was moving upriver. The group running the market lost its location and decided to move the market to Narrowsburg. In a flash, a venue known for local healthy produce, meats, baked goods, and various other well-made products, was gone. Determined to maintain the important community connectivity and Main Street atmosphere that the farmer’s market provided, citizen advocates and farmer’s market stakeholders committed to Barryville, scrambled to find a workable space to host the three-season weekly meet up.
The new seed was planted by the likes of local residents Debra Conway, the executive director of The Delaware Company, The Stickett Inn’s John Pizzolato, The Outside Institute’s Laura Silverman, along with her filmmaker husband George Billard, Matt Burns of Beaverdam Brook Farms and his wife, Jane Axamethy of The Bake House, and video editor David Johnston and his wife, performer and in-home trainer Erin West. This core group, along with dedicated market vendors who believed in the importance of a farmer’s market in Barryville, coordinated with the Barryville United Methodist Church to provide a new and idyllic shopping and gathering place situated between Rt. 97 and River Road along the Delaware River. During its successful rebooted maiden season in fall 2019, the market not only bustled with customers and entertainers, its board of directors participated in, and the market donated to, a number of organizations ranging from area animal shelters to the Eldred Central School District’s “Backpack Program,” which feeds families in need. Ever civic minded, the farmer’s market also held a voter registration drive.
Enter the coronavirus pandemic and a number of palpable problems converging at once. Local grocery stores were stressed to keep up with demand as fearful full and part-time residents stocked up to prepare their families for a potentially long quarantine. Some, under shelter-in- place orders were not comfortable shopping in public. Still others, compelled by both personal philosophy and practicality, had the need to support local farms and businesses. Additionally, with schools closed and jobs lost, the number of families enrolled in the “Backpack Program” climbed from 16 to well over 50. Looking for a solution to both keep the Barryville community nourished and area farmers and other area businesses productive, market board member Billard turned to the concept of the Victory Garden; Victory Gardens were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted in the United States and Europe in public parks and private yards during World War I and World War II. Billard began taking inventory of farmers’ first harvests as well as other market vendors’ offerings, like Tsubo’s Hand Sanitizer.
The Farmer’s Market “Victory Garden Project” Barryville style is in full swing, servicing close to 200 customers per week. Patrons are able to either customize a-la-carte items or choose from pre-packaged bags with names like, “The Omnivore,” “The Vegetarian,” “Brunch Bag,” and more. The offerings, which vary from week to week, “go live” on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. via the market’s online store, BarryvilleFarmersMarket.org, and sell out by closing time on Thursdays. For safe and efficient pick-up, customers pull into the church parking lot beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with their names written on a large piece of paper visible through a car window. They are then guided by volunteers wearing masks and gloves who locate pre-packed orders and load them in the trunks of vehicles.
“George has really kept things going behind the scenes. He’s gone above and beyond and I really appreciate the opportunity to extend the market through the Victory Garden Project,” says Bake House vendor and board member Axamethy. The group has been able to mobilize the community’s good will for those in need, raising over $3,500 to date for the “Backpack Program” over the past three weeks. The good work hasn’t gone unnoticed. NBC’s Dateline recently covered Barryville’s “Victory Garden Project.” Billard, who has called on other groups to replicate the Barryville Victory Garden model, was recently sought out to provide leadership and expertise as a guest speaker (via Zoom) for the New York Federation of Farmer’s Markets and other regional food groups and markets.
As we struggle to make ends meet, and live and eat safely, Billard and the Barryville Farmer’s Market will continue to provide leadership and services that may very well end up as a future paradigm.