Cheryl Paff: Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market

Staci Strauss

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Editor’s Note: We have known Cheryl Paff for several years now and she never ceases to amaze us with her drive, her expertise and her passion for what she loves: getting fresh, healthy food to people.

Her prowess as the manager of the Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market is tremendous.

We’re happy to say Cheryl is our friend.

Read her honest and heartfelt responses to our questions below.

The indoor winter market in Rhinebeck has come to a close, spring is here, and the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market opens this weekend. As market manager, what are you most excited about this season?

Cheryl Paff: I always look forward to being back outside. Getting out into the fresh air marks the start of our growing season and I never get tired of seeing Spring treats like asparagus, rhubarb, peas and chives show up in the market and the smiles on peoples’ faces as they chat with neighbors they may not have seen all winter.

This market is amazing, as you know, we’re big fans! Can you give us a sneak preview of what to expect in the 2014 season? Any new vendors we should know about?

CP: This year we’re pretty excited to welcome Letterbox Farm Collective from Hudson, NY. They grow some unique produce that we think market shoppers will like to experiment with such as fava beans, Shishito and Padron peppers, chicories, foraged greens, Fairy Tale eggplant, Mexican sour gherkins, young ginger, papalo, shungiku, shiso, chervil, lovage, and nasturtium.

They also offer some really great handcrafted herbal sodas, iced teas and other old-timey beverages using ingredients that they grown like anise hyssop, sumac, quince, ginger and birch, to name a few. They also make switchel, an old fashioned farmers’ drink that they’ve perfected, made from local cider vinegar and molasses, along with their honey and ginger.

How do you choose which vendors get a coveted booth at the market–there are so many talented growers and producers in the HudsonValley. Can you tell us briefly about your criteria for becoming a vendor at the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market?

CP: We pay very close attention to maintaining a diverse product mix in the market and are always trying to add new and interesting selections that we think our shoppers will enjoy. Each year we encourage our existing vendors to add new products to their offerings and when a space becomes available (which is rare), we actively search for new vendors that can add unique products, like this year with the addition of Letterbox Farm Collective, for example. 

Rhinebeck is a producer-only market, so only produce, meat and dairy raised or grown in the Hudson Valley region is permitted. All vendors who offer prepared foods, cheese, wine, etc. must use Hudson Valley grown ingredients in their products. We are very proud about the quality of products available in our region and on offer in our market. 

I know there are always fun, extra-curricular events happening, music, kids’ stuff. What is the coolest happening we can expect this year?

CP: In July, we will be teaching people how to make the most of the summer season with a jam making demonstration led by Julia Sforza, master jammer and owner of award-winning jam company, Half-Pint Preserves.

The very creative chef Rei Peraza of Panzur in Tivoli will visit the market in August to inspire shoppers with ideas on how to cook with the Stars of Summer–sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes. Rei is sure to offer something special.

Are there any prepared food stands this year? What will we be snacking on as we do our shopping?

CP: Destino Tacos will be in the market full time this year. Their tacos are made with local meats and vegetables–and the tortillas are made right in the market! You can’t beat that.

One of the most exciting things that I see happening is the emergence of charcuterie products being made in the region.

Switching gears a bit, we know that you also have a catering and food stand business yourself–Black-eyed Suzie’s Upstate. I love your tacos! Where can we find you this year?

CP: This year Black-Eyed Suzie’s Upstate will be participating in the Woodstock Farm Festival on Wednesdays starting May 28th. We’ll also be setting up at the Hudson Valley Food Truck Festival which kicks off on May 22nd at their new location at Cantine Field in Saugerties. We are planning to participate in a bunch of festivals around the region as well, events like Taste of Woodstock on May 14th, Hudson River Exchange on June 28th and 29th. 

Tell us a little about the kinds of food you offer from your catering operation.

CP: For the past 13 years I’ve been building relationships with local farmers through my work with the Rhinebeck and Woodstock Farmers’ Markets. In season, I’m in the markets at least twice a week.

I love watching the season unfold with new and different offerings each week. I never know what I’ll find any given week and I’m always surprised and inspired by the variety.

So from there, I create our menu and I feel lucky that our customers appreciate what we do and embrace our ever-changing ways.

What’s on the menu for the food stand this year? Please tell us you’ll be at the Woodstock Farm Festival!

CP: We’re excited about getting back outside with the food stand. We’ll probably start things off with a Spring Salad of tender greens with sugar snap peas and asparagus topped with some creamy burrata and chive blossoms. It wouldn’t be Spring without making our Earl Grey Tea Cake with rhubarb icing, so we’ll likely serve that as well and as soon as strawberry season arrives, we’ll make our Panna Cotta with strawberry topping.

In general, what do you think is the most exciting thing happening with regard to real food in the Hudson Valley. As a person in the know, what hidden gem should we be aware of–a new farm, a new product, maybe a new production facility coming online?

CP: One of the most exciting things that I see happening is the emergence of charcuterie products being made in the region. Up until now if you wanted to enjoy these treats, you had to purchase imported products, but no more. Dancing Ewe Farm was the first to arrive on the scene with their Capocolo and cured salami. This year they perfected a Bresaola as well.

Raven & Boar has just begun making a full line including mortadella and pate’ after receiving funding to build a kitchen through their successful Kickstarter program last year.

There’s also a new line of products by Jacuterie which are available in the Rhinebeck Market through Chaseholm Farm (formally Amazing Real Live Food Co.) that are really outstanding. Their Finocchiona is a personal favorite.

I’m excited to see what will happen with the new Hudson Valley farm hub planned for the site at Gill’s Farm

Food trucks. Love ’em or hate ’em?

CP: Oh, I love ’em! One of my favorites is Black Forest Flammkuchen

Any last words? What did I not ask?

CP: I’m excited to see the continued growth of beer, wine and spirits in the region and the revival of hard cider as well. We live in a vibrant agricultural community, don’t we?

We really do! The Hudson Valley is so rich. Cheryl, thank you for your enlightening answers. I enjoyed speaking with you.

CP: Well, thank you. I enjoyed talking about all these things so near and dear to my heart!

Is your farmer’s market open yet?

Photo Credit: Staci Strauss