Main Street Business

Not Your Average Farmers Market

By Published On: January 31st, 2023

When it comes to local businesses, they come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. Most are for-profits, while there are numerous not-for-profits and non-profits too that strive to contribute and help our communities. We were thrilled to be able to catch up with Laura Griffin of the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market and learn more about the impact that this market has on our community, farmers, children, visitors, and beyond. 

Tell us about the farmers market

The Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market, operated by CHFM Inc. and runs six months out of the year, roughly from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving. We are open on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. The best source of information about our unique market is on our website at

Do you have a mission statement?

The Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market’s mission is to educate our community and visitors in regard to sustainable farming and healthy living; to promote local agriculture, healthy foods, environmentally sound practices, and local cultural events; to ensure consumer access to high-quality local food; and to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable farming and the benefits for the environment and mankind. We aim to accomplish these goals through the operation of our successful farmers market.

How many vendors do you have and who are some of them?

Once we started using the space outside of the covered barn for vendors at Roe Jan Park, it allowed us to grow in a big way. We are glad to host almost 30 weekly farmers and food vendors. In addition, we welcome 5-6 artisan crafters every week, from a pool of about twenty talented local creators that we work with.

Our produce farmers make up the foundation of the market, naturally. Most have been with us since the start, or close to the start: White Oak Farm, Hawk Dance Farm, Markristo Farm, Earthborn Gardens, Honey Dog Farm, Yonderview Farmhouse, Common Hands Farm. They each bring something special to the table. White Oak is known far and wide for their sweet corn and BBQ sauce; Hawk Dance often adds jams and beeswax candles to their veggie display; Markristo is certified organic and abundant; Earthborn, until recently, used horses to help with the farm work; Honey Dog is well known for their garlic and sunflowers; Common Hands has expanded into value-added products such as hot sauce and salad dressings.

Overall, as we think of each vendor, we could tell you a story about them and their value to our market. They are just the most hardworking and passionate people you’d ever want to work with.

What can customers expect when they come to the farmers market?

Smiles! From the intern greeting you from the manager’s table at the entrance, the friendly leashed dogs, to the vendors who are pleased to have such a nice setting to sell from, it’s a pretty happy and relaxed environment.

At the core of it, good food from people they know and trust is what everyone can expect.

Who are some of the folks who are integral to the market?

We can’t really break that down into individuals, but it comes down to three groups: the loyal customer base, the intrepid board of directors, and the community of supporters who have expressed their faith in our mission with dollars.

What’s the impact of the market on the community?

We believe that the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market has a wide impact. First, by giving local food producers and artisans a venue to earn income without traveling hours away. Besides the amazing food, the community benefits from the local organizations that we bring in as guests, to inform and educate (master gardeners, conservation, aging at home, sustainable farming and so on). And certainly not least, we feel that our food stamp matching program is a huge positive for our neighbors; we basically double your SNAP dollars, which makes healthy food so much more approachable.

There is also a ripple effect concerning the towns around us. Visitors to our market also go the surrounding towns and do business at the shops, eateries, and lodging that we enjoy in this area.

Who are your customers?

It’s quite a range of customers. Maybe 75% are people who live within 30 minutes of our market, drawing from Copake, Hillsdale, Ancram, Hudson, and Great Barrington. Second homeowners make up a large component, as they recognize our market as part of the overall benefits of living here. Locals and visitors make up the rest (visitors include vacationers in short-term rentals, RVers, and/or campers staying in one of the terrific campgrounds in the area). One of the things that always amazes us is when we stroll through the market and hear Italian, German, Swedish, or another language being spoken, and we find out that these visitors chose to explore our market as part of their travels.

How do people learn about the market, your offerings, and vendors?

We use a range of tools to make sure people know about us like Facebook, Instagram, our website, email marketing, printed materials, and advertising (yay, Main Street Magazine!) as well as radio. Our Google reviews are enthusiastic. Since we are now an established market, we think that word-of-mouth is also a very big driver of our traffic.

What are some of the special things about the market that’s unique to it?

Can we say “everything”? The setting inside the Roe Jan Park sets it apart in a big way. The longevity of the vendor relationships as well as their tight geographic proximity is impressive. We grin when we see the amount of collaboration between vendors, for example, Little Apple Cidery serves Jacuterie salamis on their charcuterie boards, and Graylight Farm keeps a few bottles of Common Hands hot sauce on their table to complement their grilled breakfast sandwiches (which, by the way, are served on Berkshire Mountain Bakery ciabatta rolls, another vendor).

The relaxed and easy ambiance of the market truly makes it more than a simple shopping trip, with the live music and comfortable umbrella tables.

In our customers’ own words:

“Great location for this small farmers market. A beautiful drive as it is set in the hills of Copake. A good selection of vendors offering a variety of items for sale at a very reasonable price.” – Mario M.

“What an awesome group of vendors and a beautiful landscape!!

Always fun and informative the farmers talk about their food. We always buy lunch or dinner to cook at home. Dogs allowed too.” – Michael K.

“Genuinely a fine place to go. Friendly atmosphere and great things abound.” – Darla M.

Who was behind creating the farmers market?

The Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market was launched around 2005 by two Hillsdale residents, Caroline Stewart and Timmy Bates, who identified a need for an outlet for local farmers. For seven years, the market operated out of the Hamlet Park in Hillsdale, then joined forces with the Copake Farmers Market and became what it is today, situated under the covered barn at the beautiful Roeliff Jansen Park on Route 22.

What is the connection to the park and, by extensions, the association with Copake and Hillsdale?

With the merger of the Hillsdale Farmers Market with the Copake Farmers Market several years ago, it made sense to operate in a location that was squarely between the two towns. The Roe Jan Park is spacious and gorgeous, and offers so many amenities to us as well as the folks who visit all through the week. Walking trails, a dog park, a lovely stream, an event venue, a community garden… it is ideal.

What services do you provide?

Being a farmers market, the emphasis is on providing lots of fresh, healthy, local food. We do that through the hard work of our 30 farmers and food producers. Thanks to them, we are able to offer most of the staples you’d find on a weekly grocery list!

Food is the foundation but it’s not all we offer. We have some great makers of body care products, and we host local craftspeople and specialty food vendors.

One essential service that we provide is a variety of food assistance programs. We accept SNAP (traditional food stamps), and we accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, all of which give lower income customers a way to enjoy the bounty. Our market is the only farmers market in Columbia County to participate in DoubleUp Food Bucks, a matching program for SNAP customers that provides up to a $20 allowance for produce and fruit, per visit. With generous support from Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, and individual sponsors, we are able to guarantee a dollar-for-dollar match of SNAP dollars.

We can’t forget to mention gift certificates, as a service available to customers! They are such a thoughtful gift, as they can be used for anything from veggies to jewelry to spirits to lavender plants. The gift certificates are available in any denomination from the manager’s table.

As we attract a lot of young families, we have a couple of little red cars ready for customers to use to cart their kiddos around in. If a grown-up happens to want one to use for their purchases, that is fine too.

What geographic areas do you cover?

Our market attracts customers from the local area, of course, but also second homeowners, tourists, leaf-peepers, visitors from Massachusetts and Connecticut, and even international travelers. Despite being located in a lightly populated area of Columbia County, we host over 20,000 customers every season.

What sets you apart from other markets?

There are numerous other farmers markets within a 25-mile radius, and each one has a different makeup and approach. For the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market, we think we’ve combined some of the best characteristics into one market. We offer variety and abundance, but have retained an intimate setting that customers enjoy. Our market is located on an active farm in a real barn, one of the few, perhaps the only market in our region to have this advantage. Many of the vendor booths are staffed by the actual farmer or food producer, allowing customers to interact directly with the grower or producer.

Our live music, community guests, and childrens’ programs create an atmosphere that turns a shopping trip into an outing. We’re so pleased with our collaboration with the Roe Jan Community Library, who has managed the Farm Market Kids program for many years now. We welcome guest educators as well as guest chefs, to add an important education piece. The frosting on the cake is our comfortable umbrella tables, ample parking, dog runs, hiking trails, even a small stream running through the park. When it all comes together, it’s a unique experience!

What is most rewarding about being in this business?

The rewards are multi-faceted. First, knowing that our market is providing an outlet for local farmers and food producers to sell their products and earn a living is gratifying. Some of our vendors have achieved tremendous success, while others have been supported as they begin their journeys in farming or food.

Second, providing high-quality food to customers makes us happy, knowing that we are contributing to their health and satisfied palates. Undeniably, there is a great deal of pride in putting our little piece of New York State on the map.

Because education is a foundation of our mission statement, we are proud of our Farm Market Kids program, operated with the support of the Roe Jan Community Library, as it exposes youngsters to the farmers market concept early on. Through the “Power of Produce program,” kids can do activities related to food and farming, and earn real dollars that they can spend at the market. We think this aspect of the market is so valuable, and it inspires us.

How does one become a vendor?

Our application process begins in early January, with decisions made in April. We strive to keep our vendor fees as low as we can while still operating efficiently. Anyone who wants to learn more can visit

What do you see going forward?

We envision continuing with our current model, but fine tuning and improving where it makes sense to. We expect our application as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization to be approved by the 2024 season. Certainly, obtaining more grants and sponsorships will allow us to keep vendor fees low while still strongly marketing, expanding services, and attracting the best food producers in the region.

To learn more, folks can follow their story at, or copakehillsdalefarmersmarket on Facebook and Instagram.