Side Track Farmer's Market

Posted on August 26, 2016

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Side Track Farmer's Market

This new Farmer's Market on Route 31 near the railroad tracks open Thursdays and Fridays 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. has a history of catering to farmers’ needs and now sells farm products. The first record in Clay’s archives of this property’s history is its purchase in 1923 by Frank Sotherden. At that time there was a wooden building with a grist for grinding corn or wheat for flour. The company took care of all products to support farmers including seeds, animal feed, plows and more. They even sold pancake mix by the 50 pound bag to farm families. Frank was quite a business man and expanded the business, adding a cement block building. Frank was very involved in Clay and community life. A former school teacher and mail carrier, he was Town Supervisor from 1922 to 1934, and secretary of the Onondaga Highway Department for 10 years. This was while operating the Sotherden Feed and Fuel Co. and operating the International Harvester Dealership. They were very involved in shipping supplies during WWII. Of historic interest is that he was a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Frank retired in the early 1950's and his son, Donald, took over as president of D. V. Sotherden, Inc. Frank passed away quietly in his sleep May 20, 1971. Donald was a real businessman, also, adding fuel oil to the coal he sold. The business was an early affiliate of Agway and sold any hardware the farmer would need. There was a side track off the main railroad track for loading the trucks with output of the mill and for receiving goods. A scale was installed inside for dry goods and one outside for weighing the trucks and before loading into the train cars. He sold his fuel part of the business in the late 1980’s. Like his father, he had many community interests. Among them were director for 36 years at Cicero State Bank, past member and master of Centerville Masonic Lodge 648, potent master of the Scottish Consistory in the Valley of Syracuse, member of North Syracuse Rotary and Clay Volunteer Fire Department and life member of Immanuel Lutheran Church. He passed away on July 20, 1998. Lucile, Don’s wife of 65 years, sold the property after Don's passing. Various enterprises occupied the building and property: a small engine repair, a veterinarian, consignment shop, storage, apartments, etc. Don’s grandson, Bryan, and his wife Lou, purchased the property last year and have greatly improved the neglected parking lot where the old side track once ran, again creating a local gathering spot in the Old Clay Hamlet. They started the Side Track Farmer’s Market including fruits, vegetables, crafts, live music, NYS craft beer and wine, a historian table with free handouts of Clay’s history and items for sale from the Clay Historical Association. They feel that their Farmer’s Market is on historic land and want to tie in with Clay’s past. On the other side of the tracks is the oldest church in Clay, Immanuel, and the Clay Historical Park. Grandpa Don donated the old railroad station to the park. The Sotherdens are working to start their own brewery here and plan to open a tap room for tasting and selling NYS beer when all the legal requirements are fulfilled. They have successfully trademarked the name Freight Yard Brewing, a fitting name given the historic location. In the meantime, at their Farmer’s Market, they have craft beer tastings and sell take home products in partnership with Chatham Brewing, a brewer from the Albany area. They also explained that some craft brewers are experimenting with open fermentation which is historically how the past small brewers operated. Lou and Bryan have studied brewing and have been home brewers for years. Lou explained that all it takes is hops, which they grow, yeast and malt which they have to buy, and good water. Beer is very healthy, as our ancestors knew, because it kills the harmful pathogens in water. She told me that in 2012 the governor passed the NYS Farm Brewery Law to encourage small brewers to use state grown ingredients to make their individual beer and to encourage farmers to grow the needed ingredients in large amounts – hops and malt. Bryan stated that each brewery has their own flavor and they want to promote collaboration among brewers and farmers to increase beverage tourism in the area which historically is widely know for its beer production. They are bringing back history, not only their property, but the history of Clay by selling locally grown produce and locally brewed beer.

Dorothy Heller, Historian

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