Charlie Paley is a fourth generation farmer who knows that the locavore movement in our region depends—ironically— on out-of-towners. "I can tell when the train has arrived at the Wassaic
station," he says cheerfully as he stand outside of Paley's Farm Market
on Route 343 on the Amenia/Sharon border. "We get a spike in business about ten minutes after every train comes in, especially on Fridays. More and more, we get customers from New York City who stop here on their way up to the Berkshires."
Although it appears from the road to be primarily a garden center, the farm market is the heart and soul of Paley's business. "We grow heirloom tomatoes, all types of specialty potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers, squashes and cut flowers," he says as he offers a tour of his meticulous greenhouses filled with lush annuals and tender herbs and lettuces. What Paley can't grow himself he purchases from other regional farms. "I do a lot of business with Migliorelli
, the Farm at Miller's Crossing
and Sky Farm
," says Paley, whose family used to have a dairy farm up the road. He started growing sweet corn on his own as a teenager and selling it from a stand in the heart of Sharon. In the summer, he's the local go-to source for regionally-grown stone fruit and berries. "People don't realize how much fruit is grown in the Hudson Valley. I have good relationships with many farmers over there. The peaches were especially great last year," he says. "I also go to a farmers' exchange in Albany every Friday in the summer for vegetables that we don't grow and to support those upstate family farms that are struggling. For blueberries, I have some great sources in the hill towns of Massachusetts."
Paley allows that a being profit-minded locavore is tough at times. "Some people think we're expensive, but I don't think you can find better quality anywhere," he says, noting that he'd prefer to be a purist "but sometimes I have to sell imported berries because I have customers who want their strawberries whether they're in season or not." There are plenty of delicious local reasons to shop at his market besides produce: cheese (from Coach Farm
and Old Chatham Sheepherding
), yogurt (Ronnybrook
), smoked meats (Nodine's
) ice cream (SoCo Creamery
), milk (Hudson Valley Fresh
), and bread (Rock Hill Bakehouse
and Bread Alone
.) "We're adding many new cheeses from small producers in Vermont, and we get the best mozzarella and soppressata from Brooklyn. In the summer, we sell three hundred pounds of mozzarella a week. You've got to have mozzarella when you sell tomatoes and basil!"
Does he see the increasing number of farmers' markets and CSAs as competition? "Not at all," he says. "It raises the bar, and the farmers' markets are only in business for a few hours and we are here seven days a week. And I think if you care about local agriculture, the best thing in the world you can do is to join a CSA." Though Fridays and Saturdays are always the busiest days at the market from now until Columbus Day, Sundays are nearly as bustling. "We have a lot of customers who stop to buy plants and produce to take back to the city," he says.
Paley's Farm Market and Garden Center
Route 343, Sharon, CT; 860.364.0674
Daily: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.