In the summer of 2020, when so many businesses closed their doors, outdoor farmers’ markets found their real moment to shine. They may have had to demand masks and space their stalls out farther than usual, but they were considered the safest places to get food – and fresh, local food to boot.
This summer, COVID rules were relaxed, vendors got closer, live music and kids’ activities are back. And the Saugerties Farmer’s Market – now in its 20e year of operation – is once again able to host their popular fundraising extravaganza, the Harvest Home Dinners Series. The first takes place this week, August 26, and the following dates are filling up quickly.
Imagine being invited to an intimate dinner – 12 people maximum – in the charming house of excellent chefs, with a menu designed around the availability of the freshest seasonal produce from local farms. What, not everyone has such talented and generous friends? Well, what if you could buy your seat in such an invitation, in a mysterious place, at a price no more than a typical “fancy” dinner for a special occasion? What if you knew that this $ 65 per person bill was used to support a good community cause?
Hard to resist, isn’t it? Some people do it year after year. A few go there multiple times during each Harvest Home season. Some sign up with a âgroupâ of friends. And well-heeled supporters sometimes buy the whole table on a particular night. Taking full control of the company you have for that special dinner certainly has its appeal, but there is also something to be said about showing up on your own and meeting a bunch of interesting new people over a sumptuous meal. After more than a year of cocooning and learning to enjoy being in her company, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to re-emerge in society.
Harvest Home Dinners started in 2006, according to Judith Spektor, who, along with her husband, Barry Benepe, co-founded Saugerties Farmers’ Market, and remains the volunteer coordinator to this day. The committee that ran the market was brainstorming some fundraising ideas as there is a full time market manager and weekly performers who need to be paid somehow. Some of the market’s organizers and supporters were well-known chefs including restaurateurs Saugerties Rickie and James Tamayo, and less famous ones were ready to host, either cooking themselves or hiring outside chefs to prepare the special meal. .
The problem was how to divide the attendance. âWe thought, ‘Everyone will want to book with Jimmy Tamayo.’ That’s when we decided to do it ahead of the date, âexplains Spektor. And this is how it has worked, until today: you choose the day you want to attend a dinner, but the identity of your hosts or their place of residence is not communicated to you until well after you have paid your ticket. Only two people know for sure who’s hosting when – Spektor and Harvest Home organizer Diane Congello-Brandes – and they don’t even tell the rest of the Marketplace board. The schedule only specifies dates that include vegetarian meals. If you are friends with someone who is a regular guest, you may be able to find out from them the date they have chosen; but that would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it? A great time is guaranteed for everyone, no matter where or with whom you end up.
âThe host not only opens the house, sets the table and is the social host, but pays for the food, so all the money goes to the market,â says Spektor. Guests are expected to bring their own bottle of wine, but often times the host will also make a specialty cocktail and serve it in a different part of the house where you sit for dinner or dessert – perhaps on a porch or patio. , if the weather is nice, or in front of a fireplace later in the season. A market board member will usually kick off with a two-minute welcome speech to remind attendees of the good cause the dinner supports, and then it’s fun for the rest of the evening.
There is a strong expectation that as many of the ingredients for the dinners as possible will be obtained from the regular vendors at the Saugerties Farmer’s Market. âOur goal is to keep cultivating farmers and helping them do well,â says Spektor. âIt’s about saving farmland, enjoying delicious food and socializing with people. “
The Harvest Home Dinners program for 2021 includes 11 evenings, one of which is already full. The opening dates are August 26, September 11, 18, 25 and 28 and October 3, 9, 13, 17 and 22. To reserve your place, you will need to download the application form on https://saugertiesfarmersmarket.com/harvest-home-dinners-flyer, fill it out and return it with a check and a vaccination certificate to Congello-Brandes. Enjoy your lunch!