By Tim Rowland
This Christmas I’m giving the gift of garlic. No, really — plump and pungent bulbs of Adirondack-grown garlic, snow white with faint veins of purple, along with a recipe for Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic and a personalized story about how this was the first “grown up” dish I learned to cook after leaving the comforts of college for the federally subsidized housing that a journalist’s salary could absorb.
With all the Christmas clamor of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and complex eco-moral equations (is little Chauncy only worth a Gameboy if it’s 40% off?) Adirondack farm stores are an oasis of relaxed shopping, where a surprising number of thoughtful and affordable gifts await creative shoppers.
Michele Drozd, co-founder and executive director of Craigardan, which operates a farm store near Elizabethtown, said maple syrup is a quintessential Adirondack gift, but there is much more local fare on the shelves for Yuletide giving, from stocking stuffers like Dak Energy Bars to luxurious sheepskins. “A lot of farms are making value-added products,” Michele said.
Gifts that are growing in popularity include locally crafted beers and ciders, said Alana Desjardins, manager of the Ticonderoga Natural Food Co-op. “People like those because they are interesting,” she said, as are exotic flavors in nonalcoholic beverages as well, like rose lemonade..
Local chocolates and honey are popular too, and people might be surprised at some of the more nontraditional products that farm stores sell. A local resident with Mediterranean connections was excited to come across a source of what’s reputed to be the best olive oil in the world — which you can now buy in Ti, along with knitted accessories, hand-crafted bird houses and ornaments.
Adirondack Christmas gift baskets are popular, even if they don’t include an actual basket. Farm-stores are happy to help you select a collection of personalized gifts that might include soaps, teas, calming CBD dog treats and wines.
And of course what’s wine without cheese? “This is a real cheesy time of year,” said Margot Brooks, who with Alex Eaton owns Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay. “We always have people reaching out to get gifts.”
Cheese is popular for holiday parties as well, Margot said, along with charcuterie selections from Mace Chasm Farm in Keeseville. While farm stores are busier in summer when there’s more fresh produce, they should not be overlooked for holiday feasts. Wide selections of meats are available, as are fresh greens, breads and winter vegetables. “Some people come in just for carrots or potatoes from Juniper Hill,” Alana said.
And the holiday meal can be rounded out with locally ordered turkeys and winter squashes and pumpkins. Trying new recipes can be part of the fun. And if time is an issue, Cedar Run Bakery and Market in Keene prepares a full array of home-cooked meals — from beef stroganoff to chicken divan — pizzas, appetizers, sides, soups and sauces.
“Some people throw entire dinner parties (with Cedar Run meals) because they just don’t have the time to do it themselves,” said Kristy Deyo, owner of the market.
Kristy said she sees the same groups of women each Christmas, coming in to shop for gifts and stocking stuffers, because it’s become a tradition, and because they can trust the quality of local and regional products.
For producers she does not know personally, Kristy uses the Buycott app to make sure they are socially responsible. Along with food and baked goods, shoppers can find holiday-themed tea towels, hand-made bird ornaments and spirits. “We have some pretty unique things,” Kristy said. And for shoppers, the holidays are also a chance to give local producers a boost in the slower winter months. “If you want it to be here, you have to support it,” Kristy said.
Find more local farm stores, farmers’ markets, and local retailers at adirondackharvest.com/browse.