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A Farmers’ Market for the Internet Age

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Heldeberg Market, Eight Mile Creek VeggiesWhen you think of a farmer’s market, you probably envision wooden stalls piled high with fresh fruits and veggies, perhaps inside a big white tent or a large barn-like structure or out in an open field. While farmer’s markets are one way to get back to the old-world naturalism of homegrown foods and homemade products, some have recently taken an alternative spin through the Internet.

Recently, as I was researching the availability of specialty products, such as herbs and maple syrup in the Albany and Saratoga areas, I came across one of these, Heldeberg Market. Heldeberg is an online shop that offers a variety of farm-fresh produce and other products that are delivered to your home or workplace, if you live or work in that particular area. Now you may be thinking, well why would I do this, this works against all notions of the benefits for farmers, but that’s really not the case. Online markets can actually be advantageous to families with smaller farms, as they expose farmers to a much broader customer base than they would have at say, traditional markets. And for the shopper, well whether this is something that you’re going to utilize or not is really going to depend on whether you still prefer buying your products in person, or if you’re willing to take that internet leap.

Nine farms sell their products through Heldeberg. What I found, when exploring their website, is that it’s easy to navigate, and it’s organized both by individual farms and products. Of course I’ll still continue as well going to my local market, because who doesn’t love to look in person at all that fresh and delicious food, and there is something about seeing the food in front of you before you buy it that can’t be replaced. But something I definitely enjoyed about this aspect of shopping online is that it gave me the opportunity to read the history of the farm and about some of the products themselves, so I could decipher exactly where my meat, produce, and other products we’re coming from. Also, an online market can definitely be advantageous if you just don’t have the time in your week to get to your regular farmers’ market, as it gives you a 24-hour window to shop, rather than just a few hours block of time.

I was also pleased to find some additional products that aren’t the usual fare at traditional markets, items like alpaca products, skincare creams, lip balms, fresh-cut herbs for herbal butter and tea, and a variety of grass-fed and organic meats that can be ordered online. All of the farms featured on Heldeberg are located in Albany County, so deliveries to the home or office are unfortunately at this point restricted to this area as well. But, if you choose to order from Heldeberg, and are not an Albany County resident, you can choose a “neighborhood drop-off” option to pick up your order in a specified location within the county. Within the next year though Heldeberg is looking to expand to a number of other local areas, including locations in Schenectady, Renssealear, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.

Here’s a quick breakdown on some of the farms they cover:

Mountain Winds Farm, out of Berne, NY raises antibiotic and hormone-free, free-range chickens that consume only preservative-free food, and produce fresh, natural eggs. Since it’s often difficult to find completely organic meat, I was definitely pleased to find this one. In addition, Mountain Winds produces their own maple syrup, which comes in several varieties, including extra-dark, dark, and medium amber. Owner Randy Grippin explains that “the lighter the color, the lighter the maple flavor. The extra dark gives you the most robust flavor, which makes it good for eating or cooking.” Having not heard of these maple syrup varieties before, I found the options quite unique.

The Farm at the Garden, in Rensselaerville, NY, serves as “an Eco/Holistic Educational Retreat Center.” In addition to their commitment to grow all-natural produce, they are willing to educate people on how to work and live holistically. They offer many fresh herbs, including thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, and chives, in addition to hard-to-find flavorings such as lavender, mint, peppermint, and pineapple mint. Farm at the Garden also offers a variety of edible flowers.

Green Spiral Herbs of Middleburgh, NY, offers many herbs and handmade herbal products. The herbal blends for butters are the most interesting of their offerings, and are something I definitely want to try, which include mixtures such as fresh tarragon and thyme, basil and Italian parsley, and lemon balm and dill. In addition to these delicious ideas come a wide variety of salves, balms and oils, such as the fresh lime balm.

Again, the drawbacks with the Heldeberg Market is its restricted delivery area, and that you can’t be hands on with the products. But otherwise, the Heldeberg Market struck me as an interesting alternative to traditional farmers markets, especially for those with busy lifestyles who can’t be bothered to travel for what they need, and it’s one way to ensure that you know what you’re getting, and that you’re supporting a good cause.

For more info on the market, visit www.heldebergmarket.com

–Jessica Nicosia is an Assistant Editor of The Free George.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=3168

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