After 10 years, nobody expected any sort of a comeback for the little old farm market on Route 23 in the hamlet of Craryville. But as of December 2018, the late-1800s building hums with new life and flavor thanks to a five-member collective.
Random Harvest Market, Café & Community Space offers high quality produce and products from area farmers and producers, year-round. Over 80 producers have signed on, offering baked goods, honey, mushrooms, herbs, meats, eggs, dairy, and wellness products, to name but a partial list. Producers get dedicated space and signage, so that shoppers know where their food comes from, and free coffee when they stop in.
The co-owners came together over a vision of a community-based relational food system. The Random Harvest model allows producers to reach a bigger audience by selling their goods on consignment in a centralized outlet. They are also able to set their own prices and keep 75 percent of sales.
“One of the most difficult challenges was landing on a business plan that matched our vision,” says co-owner Hillary Melville, official “big dreamer, boss unicorn, and dance master.” Consultants told the team that local sourcing the majority of their offerings wasn’t viable, but they kept studying the matter and discovered the consignment model developed by markets in the Midwest.
Models of exchange, pricing, and ownership that reflect the needs of workers, producers, and community members.are baked into the entire project. Employees have a path to ownership. Organic and local goods are a focus, but in service of the larger goal: The top priority is providing a one-stop shop for the community, offering a range of price points and choices. The collective is in the process of getting approved to accept SNAP benefits to increase accessibility.
The market is adding a certified kitchen for producers and community members and has a community space that will be used for all sorts of fun workshops. (There’s live music on Saturday afternoon, February 23, and a Kids Community Jam the following Wednesday.) The cafe offers salads, soups, sandwiches, and wraps (fancy some maple roasted root veggies with swiss, or perhaps an apple butternut camembert melt?). You can expect the offerings to evolve as the seasons change and “culinary magician, wild alchemist, radical auntie” Amy Lawton falls in love with various ingredients.
“People still walk in with so much excitement to see what we've done with the place,” says worker-owner Margot Seigle (“weaver of people, ritual maker, schlepper extraordinaire”). “Many fondly remember the original Random Harvest in this space and are excited to see it bustling once again. We've been really happy to carry on the legacy of Random Harvest and meet people who used to shop, work, and sell food here. It's also a great joy to get to know the producers and feature their amazing products on the shelves.”