If you live in the New York area, there is a high probability that you’ve either tasted or at least seen a product from Beth’s Farm Kitchen, from Stuyvesant Falls, NY. Beth Linskey’s delicious jam and chutney are found both at the Union Square Greenmarket (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) and at many local establishments, including but not limited to Union Market, Cobblestone Catering, Provisions, Two Little Red Hens, and Egg. The best way to sample the jam and chutney is at the market, where you have a chance to taste a number of creative flavors (there were 28 jars available for testing on the Wednesday I was there!) and chat with the personable ladies of Beth’s Farm Kitchen. The women of Beth’s Farm Kitchen are quick to engage you in friendly conversation or make recommendations for how to use their product for more than the basic piece of toast. Beth is also full of energy: as one co-worker said, “I can attest that she never stops!”
This past Wednesday, I had the chance to meet the exuberant Beth and learn more about her jamming business.
Beth started ‘Beth’s Farm Kitchen’ nearly thirty years ago, after stints at both Sears Roebuck & Company and in the catering business. While in the catering business, the NYC Greenmarkets opened and Beth quickly learned to use the Greenmarket products (such as flowers and vegetables) for her clients as the Greenmarket sold items that she “just couldn’t get anywhere else”. Linskey grew to appreciate both the relationships she formed with the farmers and the quality of product she was able to buy.
After her husband took a job in Albany, NY, Beth realized that she needed to figure out a career that would allow her to be with her husband, as “marriages work better that way”, Beth laughs. Beth is a self-described city-person and wanted to find a job that also allowed her time in Manhattan. As her years in the catering business had allowed her to form connections with farmers and vendors, Beth decided to become a jam-maker. She knew there was potential business for a jam-maker as she was aware of several jam makers already at the market. She also knew that farmers often had nothing to do with their unsold produce and that these products frequently had to be thrown out. “There weren’t the avenues that there are now,” Beth states.
She and her husband made their home in Columbia County, a county full of “good orchards” and Beth wasted no time making her first batch of strawberry jam. Beth’s Farm Kitchen has now been selling at the Greenmarkets for nearly thirty years, ultimately settling into the Union Square Greenmarket for the last twenty. The business now employs eleven part-time employees, with Liz Beals acting as her right-hand woman, serving as the kitchen and financial manager.
Since their first foray into strawberry jam, these days Beth’s Farm Kitchen sells a multitude of products, including their best seller, strawberry-rhubarb, and other standard favorites like blackberry and peach, marmalades, and creative blended flavors such as “neachycot” (nectarines, peaches, and apricots). Beth’s Farm Kitchen also makes a variety of chutneys, which are designed to add flavor to and enhance one’s cooking. Beth’s jams and chutneys have both a local and national following, as evidenced by their nearly 130 fans on Facebook, rave reviews from Zagat (with a quality rating of 27), and such comments as “It’s a chutney for gastronomic grown-ups”, from food critic David Rosengarten. There is even interest on the international stage, as during my interview, Beth was approached by a representative for a Swiss Department Store interested in her products.
As an added bonus for locavores and supporters of the local food movement, Beth’s Farm Kitchen sources from a multitude of local farms, including Samascott Orchards, Red Jacket Orchards, Wilklow Orchards, and Stokes Farm. These connections have been formed over the years, going back to when Beth used to pick her own at Samascott Orchards, 3 miles away from her.
Q: What is your personal favorite jam?
Beth Linksey: Apricot! The apricots are from Red Jacket Orchards and they have been having consistently good apricots. Apricot is a year to year kind of thing and when they have a good season, we overbuy, so we’ll be okay for the following season.
Q: What do you do to relax?
B.L.: I run a small business and generally speaking, small business owners have to work seven days a week. I love to go out to dinner. I have favorite restaurants in New York and hamburgers are fine for me! One of my absolute favorites is Henry’s on 105th and Broadway.
Q: What is the best part about selling at the farmers’ market?
B.L.: I like the contact with people. It gives you a lot of energy; the whole city gives people energy. I am a people person, so I need the interaction.
Q: Why are farmers’ markets important to New York residents?
B.L.: Since I come from when “[Greenmarkets]” first started to now, we were such an anomaly in the early days because things weren’t in the grocery store. But now [the importance is] you can actually meet someone who produced the food, which you don’t get in a grocery store. I think it’s really nice to meet the farmers and it’s really good to have someone who knows the product.
Where: Union Square Greenmarket: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, year-round; Local establishments such as Provisions, Union Market, and several New York Dean & Deluca stores.
Price: 8 oz jar: $8.00; Frequent Jam Card: Buy 10, get a free jar of jam