The first and best tomatoes I’ve had so far this season came from Sycamore Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket. They’ve been beautiful and tasty, especially when I’ve sliced them up, still warm from the sun out at the market. (If I’m waxing rhapsodic, it’s because I love tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, unlike those tasteless strip mined grocery store ones that never ripen but mummify themselves instead on the kitchen counter rather than rot.)
First Day of Corn Season, Brought to Us By Sycamore Farms
Last Saturday when I was picking up more tomatoes for a cookout at a friend’s house, I overheard the farmer tell a customer that they would be bringing in the first ears of corn on Wednesday (today). I made a mental note, and sure enough, I remembered to go the market today to check out the corn!
Sycamore Farms is a family owned farm. They have been selling in Union Square since 1981. Kevin Smith runs the farm today in partnership with his parents, who first started coming to the market in 1981, when they would bring him along as an infant. I asked him if he still has customers who knew his parents. Like clockwork, a gentleman walked up to say hello and turned out to be one of those very customers. Kevin says they now have relationships with a third generation of customers: those who knew his parents, their kids and now their grandkids.
Kevin took over the farm in 2003. Today the farm, which is up in Middletown, New York, includes a 4,000 square foot produce stand, 1000 square feet in retail space, and a 1000 square foot commercial kitchen, where they make jams, jellies, tomato sauces and baked goods, all produced with ingredients grown right there on the farm. These jarred products are a way to reduce spoilage and waste of fruits and veggies that might not look perfect enough to bring to the market but are still perfectly delicious.
Corn so sweet you can eat it raw!
Sycamore Farms is a traditional farm, but they are of this generation that understands the importance of social media and general marketing to the business side of their enterprise. They recently made a beautiful new logo, based on an actual ancient sycamore tree on the farm. They have a distinctive silver market tent. And their wooden displays are both practical and pretty. They have been in roughly the same spot at the Union Square market since they first started there, and that’s important too.
“We want our customers to be able to find us easily and make sure they’re at the right farm stand in a big market like Union Square.”
Kevin and his family pride themselves on providing delicious, fresh produce every week at the market. “We only bring vegetables that we would eat ourselves.” They pick everything as close to market day as possible, usually within 24 hours or less. In the early days, I learned from GrowNYC Market Director Michael Hurwitz, Kevin’s mother would drive down a second truckload of produce to the market at mid-day to restock the bins and to make sure everything was as fresh as it could possibly be.
Sycamore Farms also welcomes visitors six days a week (Tuesday – Sunday)! It is about 70 miles from Union Square, and you can spend the day visiting the farm and noshing on fresh produce and baked goods. Call ahead and make arrangements with the farm for your visit. If you want to make a weekend trip, Kevin tells me there are some lovely B&B’s in the area. (You might want to call them rather than email them, as they’re usually too busy growing food for us to check their emails very often.)
And about that corn? It is sweet and wonderful, and good enough to eat raw, which is exactly what Kevin did for the video above and the photos below. I love sweet corn almost as much as I love tomatoes. And I need to get a t-shirt like Kevin’s, although he’ll always be the original Corn Star.
I asked Kevin if he could tell me why some farms call themselves XYZ Farm, while others use “farms” (plural) in their names, as in Sycamore Farms. He said he didn’t know why that was. But in his case, the word “farms” is more like a verb. It took me a second, but when I got it, I loved it.
~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City
Kevin Smith of Sycamore Farms Samples The Sweet Fresh Corn
Farmers are funny too.
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