Monday, July 5, 2010

Pleasantville Farmer's Market

The young man had the windblown hair, fresh faced American look from novels about the American Midwest. He was selling fish from under the tent of his store at the Saturday morning farm market while M and me were debating on the mackerel fillets. He asked us where we were from, then caught us off guard as he continued his conversation in Bengali. Fresh fish from Long Island and the eastern seaboard is sold here every Saturday morning—mackerel, bass, bluefish, tuna, scallops, shrimp—expensive but fresh; and here was this young man, suggesting grilling tips, and then slipping into Bengali. He spends time as a teacher he said, in Khulna, Bangladesh, and he was headed there again in a month’s time.

There are many surprises at the Farmers Market, held in Pleasantville, NY on Saturday mornings. It is popular among the locals, with farmers travelling from as far as 70 miles upstate to sell their produce to a well heeled clientele. Farms from Gardiner and further north bring grass fed beef, farm chicken, sausages, potatoes of myriad shapes and colors, local wines, cheeses and dried nuts, that are taken away in reusable cotton and jute grocery bags. I recall hearing a professor of agriculture from Arizona once comment— “if you want a great tasting tomato, then eat the ones from a farm store or your back garden, but you cannot get a few thousand pounds of them a month in winter, each tasting exactly the same, as you would from a hothouse!”

I wander about, camera in hand. There are other photographers like me, some with serious gear. A video interview is being conducted at the fish store, and the owner offers a primer on discerning quality. Passing dogs, tethered to leashes, measure one another.  Children frisk around chomping vegetables, people with big sunglasses perched on their heads stand in line patiently waiting for their turn to buy. We come across a few people we know and exchange pleasantries. I stop to pick up some meat. I have a beard and am often mistaken for a middle-easterner. As the farmer handed me a packet of pork sausages, he asks me if I am Muslim. “Take a wild guess”, I reply.

And what interesting people man the stalls. The British farmer from whom we often buy our meats was a one-time elephant trainer who spent time in Mysore. The bread store is run by Tibetans from Dharamsala. A Calcutta Kitchens booth run by an American and a Bengali lady with an MBA from IIM Kolkata. When the morning sun is yet mild and there are blue skies beyond the train station, sandal clad localites descend upon the market Starbucks in hand, and little children and barefoot babies in their summer dresses swing at the air in close fists from their prams. A peaceful outcome distills out of the din and turmoil of the bazaar--as if time has stood still, if only for a a few minutes. In rhythm to the ticking parking meters in downtown, the crowd gelates together in a celebration of fresh food, in a happy timeout from Westchester’s characteristic edginess.


  1. That was a nice reminder. We have a much bigger farmer's market but it's much harder to navigate than Pleasantville's.

  2. Such a beautifully written "blog" .. so descriptive and so accurate.. these people are so special, as well as being outstanding farmers, growers and vendors..The fish man is so well described, and once again, he is back in Bangladesh.. His special friend, very special indeed, is "minding the store".