SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — How much do Kelly and Casey Holzworth like farming?
A couple of years ago, for Christmas, he leased a parcel of land for them to expand her fast-growing vegetable gardens.
Quite athletic, Kelly sometimes literally runs four miles from their downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home to spend a day working in the field, called Kelsey’s Quarter Acre, which has become a labor of love with bountiful results.
“It doesn’t feel like work at all,” she said.
That’s the same approach she takes with a new venture called Saratoga FarmieMarket, an online business that allows people to shop via the Internet the same way they do at area farmers markets. With the click of a computer mouse, people can buy fresh locally grown produce and have it delivered to their doorstep within 48 hours.
“We’re not trying to compete with local farmers markets,” Kelly said. “Our goal is to do anything we can to get people to support local farms. It’s just another option.”
“It’s a good niche for small growers especially who don’t have the time or manpower to set up at regular farmers markets, or don’t have enough inventory to compete with bigger farms,” Casey said. “This gives them another way to sell their goods.”
So far, 15 farms have signed up. Growers tell the Holzworths a week ahead of time what goods they expect to have available, which are then posted on the website (Saratoga.farmiemarket.com). As online shoppers choose things, the inventory of goods changes so people always know what’s in stock.
Customers must place orders by late Tuesday afternoon. The only requirement is a $25 minimum purchase.
“Anyone within Saratoga County can order from the market,” Kelly said.
Early Thursday morning, farmers bring goods to the Holzworths’ home where they prepare them for delivery. Then Kelly begins making a big loop throughout the county, dropping off a variety of meats, vegetables, eggs and artisan breads to awaiting customers.
“We have a Honda Fit that gets almost 40 miles per gallon,” Casey said. “It’s our own little farm wagon.”
“Drop the seats, load it up with coolers and away I go,” Kelly said.
The online market is a good way for local business people to shop, too.
Some might live 10 to 20 miles away and commute to jobs in Saratoga Springs, where Kelly can deliver things to their office.
Another advantage, for farmers, is that they only pick the greens and vegetables that people order. “That way they aren’t harvesting extra stuff,” Casey said. “When you go to a regular farmers market you pick everything you think you might sell. If it doesn’t sell, what do you do with it?”
The couple — she’s 34, he’s 33 — is among the fast-growing number of local, young people venturing into agricultural pursuits in this part of upstate New York. Saratoga County is booming with high-tech industry.
GlobalFoundries, which recently completed a $4.6 billion semiconductor plant, recently announced plans for a $2 billion research and development facility.
However, a different segment of the population is doing everything it can to preserve and promote the region’s farm heritage. They’re pursuing everything from dairy to fiber, vineyards, goat cheese and organic produce.
“Farming is a pretty new thing for me,” Kelly said. “When we bought our home in 2006, I started growing our own food.”
However, their house is on a 1/10th-acre lot.
“We ripped up lawns and replaced flower gardens with vegetables,” Casey said.
Originally from western Pennsylvania, he was raised in a rural farm setting.
Soon, they outgrew their backyard gardens, prompting their expansion to fields just outside the city.
“That’s what is so great about living here,” Kelly said. “In just a few minutes you can be at a working farm.”
FarmieMarket is a relatively new concept, based in Albany, N.Y., and run by founder Sarah Gordon. Last June, she posted a job announcement seeking someone to handle Saratoga County and Kelly jumped at the opportunity.
As the program’s Saratoga coordinator, she is a licensee of FarmieMarket, not a franchise owner. Gordon manages the Albany area and there are two other licensees, in Ulster and Dutchess counties in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
When not busy with this, Kelly works full-time for the LA Group, an environmentally-conscious landscape architecture firm. Casey is a natural resource steward for the New York State park system’s Saratoga-Capital and 1,000 Islands regions.
The husband-and-wife team also volunteers for Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature) and is active with the group Sustainable Saratoga that promotes gardening and farming.
Participating FarmieMarket growers don’t have to be organic certified, which can be costly and requires extensive paperwork. However, they must agree not to use chemical pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms.
“We follow the same guidelines as organic growers,” Kelly said. “I love being able to grow and provide food to our friends and other people. That’s our goal, to give customers a really easy way to support their local farms.”