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No More Mall Madness: Basilica Hudson Beats Black Friday With Farm & Flea

By Robert Burke Warren

Everyone complains about Black Friday. You want to get holiday shopping done on the long Thanksgiving weekend, but the impersonal malls are packed, people are rude, the food is toxic, and increasingly, you realize money spent at big box stores draws support away from local economies, i.e. your neighbors. But you gotta shop. What to do?

Rather than accept the Black Friday dilemma as a necessary evil, Melissa Auf der Maur, erstwhile bassist for Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, now proprietess of multi-purpose space Basilica Hudson, is presenting the first annual Farm & Flea at the Basilica. Starting with the Black Friday Soiree at 5 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 29 – the sprawling, majestic 19th century factory space becomes a bustling marketplace filled with handcrafted furniture and clothing, local farm goods, vintage items, and locally sourced herbal products. All makers will be on hand, and nothing, but nothing, will be stamped “Made In China/Indonesia/Malaysia”… etc. The 2½ day event, sponsored by Green Mountain Energy, the world’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer, and magazines BUST and the brand new Modern Farmer, continues through the weekend.

“It’s an alternative to Black Friday,” Auf der Maur says from her Hudson home. “We’re encouraging people to buy local, buy handmade or vintage for Holiday shopping. The malls are horrible and disgusting.” Farm & Flea offers a wide array of gift possibilities. Among the many offerings are pottery from Tivoli Tile Works’ famed ceramicist Caroline Wallner (left and right), artisan jewelry from Christine Domanic (below left), and meats and poultry from Claverack, NY’s Diamond Hills Farm (above right).

The seed for Farm & Flea was planted when Auf der Maur and her husband, filmmaker Tony Stone, moved to Hudson in 2007. They joined nearby CSA (community supported agriculture) Germantown Community Farm, co-founded by broadcaster, farmer, educator, activist, and carpenter Kaya Weidman. Weidman, a co-organizer of Farm & Flea, is the archetypal multi-tasking rural maker, knee-deep in the soil, carving out a hardscrabble but rewarding lifestyle, while also connecting to surrounding urban areas. Helping with the craft end of Farm & Flea is Elise McMahon, acclaimed furniture maker and member of Hudson’s Greenhorns, who, Auf der Maur says, “help farmers figure out how to survive.” As with all Basilica endeavors, Auf der Maur provides a broader platform for margin-dwellers like Weidman, McMahon, and their peers, while also drawing the general public to valuable consumer alternatives.

Of Weidman, Auf der Maur says, “Kaya is the highest level of community leader. She’s part of this wave of remarkable Hudson-area women, an amazing group of girls who cook, farm, make furniture, herbal remedies, lamps, bags. And Elise is an amazing artist and organizer. In the last couple of years, a lot more hardworking makers and organizers, mostly women, have moved to Hudson, so the time was right for our first Farm & Flea. I put feelers out last spring. A really strong group of girls responded.”

Herbalist Lauren Giambroni enthusiastically jumped on board. Her Germantown-based Good Fight Herb Company is enjoying its third successful year. Of her business, she says, “I grow and wildcraft medicinal herbs, and I make tinctures, teas, salves, syrups, body care products, and self-care seasonal support tonics to help with allergies or immune building. I handcraft everything, from growing to product making. My mission is to create an empowering alternative to our current healthcare system. We need other options. That’s my good fight.”

Giambroni and farmer Tess Diamond – of Cornwallville NY’s Old Field Farm – are organizing the farm stand section at Farm & Flea. “This area is so agriculturally dense,” Giambroni says. “There are lots of great farm markets and CSAs, and we’ve reached out and involved them. At the farm stand section of Farm & Flea, you can take away pasture-raised beef from my friend from Pine Plains, or an organic potted plant from Farmhand Flowers, or you could bring home a medicinal herb potion, a sleep aide or a stress buster. The combining of grocery and gift gives the farmers a dual chance to display their awesomeness, and shows people what local farms provide besides meat and cheese – farmers will be bringing honey, beeswax, and maple syrup, too.”

Giambroni is excited about Auf der Maur’s astute choice to include NYC-based BUST magazine. BUST’s Craftaculars have grown from a one-off event in 2005 to a regular, international phenomenon at which shoppers opt to buy quality one-of-a-kind items directly from a growing breed of makers or vintage mavens. “It’s great Melissa brought in the Craftacular,” Giambroni says. “It’s a good way to get people from Manhattan. I’m excited both for my own extended community and out-of-towners. And I already can’t wait for Farm & Flea 2014!”

Auf der Maur also sees Farm & Flea as an annual event. The recent success of Basilica Soundscape, which drew raves from The New York Times and The New Yorker, offered vindication, and further emboldened her already flinty determination.

“We’ve achieved our concept,” she says. “We’ve got annual music festivals like Soundscape, featuring international acts and guest curators, and then there’s our film screenings, Ramp Fest, and now Farm & Flea, all more locally-curated ventures which highlight regional things that are also attractive to New Yorkers. We’ve accomplished one chapter, and we’re eager to start another one.”

Farm & Flea
Black Friday Soiree: November 29, 5-9 p.m.
Saturday, November 30 & Sunday, December 1, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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