For as long as there’s been a Saratoga Farmers’ Market, Suzanne Balet-Haight has been selling something there.
She started at age 8 with fresh-squeezed lemonade. That was nearly 40 years ago, when the Farmers’ Market established itself in the parking lot on Spring Street where the Park Side Eatery has its entrance. Balet-Haight’s parents, Peter and Marie Balet, sold fresh corn and produce there.
Today, as the owner and manager of Balet Flowers and Design, Balet-Haight and her team of ten employees bring to the market more than 150 annual varieties of flowers, 200 types of perennials, and 80 varieties of vegetable and herb plants. She also sells pottery, which she has been making since 2000.
Balet-Haight is the latest agricultural expert to join the Pitney Meadows Advisory Council, serving in the role of Saratoga Farmers' Market representative, Pitney Meadows' President Sandy Arnold has announced.
“With her long experience in farming and business, Suzanne will be a great resource for us and the community,” said Arnold. “We’re delighted to have her on the team that’s envisioning and developing Pitney Meadows into a community farm.”
In addition to serving as an information conduit for the Farmers’ Market, Balet-Haight will help with Pitney Meadows’ community gardens' initiative and teach courses on subjects of special interest to flower gardeners. Among those she’s planning: a course on how to make hypertufa containers using a combination of Portland cement, peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, and water.
"For years, I have admired the farm fields at the Pitney Farm," says Balet-Haight. "I am excited to be a part of PMCF while sharing my knowledge about the Saratoga Farmers' Market and in the field of horticulture."
After earning a degree in horticulture from Cornell in 1993, Balet-Haight spent a couple of years getting work experience with plug producers, then returned to the family farm on Nelson Avenue Extension in Malta to start Balet Flowers and Design. She met her husband, David, who serves as the New York director for American Farmland Trust, at the market in 2000 and they married in 2002.
After farming 20 acres from 1978 through 1995, her parents are still engaged in the operation, with Marie focused on accounting and Peter plowing the fields and maintaining the tractors. David helps with marketing, fixes the irrigation as necessary, and drives the tractor on nights and weekends. Their children – Andrew, 13, and Julia, 10 – help out in the greenhouse and with market days.
Balet-Haight is currently participating in the intensive Farm and Food Business Accelerator offered for farmers and food entrepreneurs by the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation. The intensive six-month program helps entrepreneurs scale their businesses, gain access to capital, and increase sales through online training, expert instruction, mentoring, and industry networking events.