Meet the Maker, in her own words:
“You know, there’s just a freedom about New York that I’ve always felt. I visited many states in the U.S. since I’ve been here, and I just feel that there’s a history here of making history,” says Claire Marin, proprietress of artisanal food company Catskill Provisions. “I think the melting pot that New York really, truly is speaks to some of that strength and that independence that we feel — to have our own ideas and to be able to voice them out.”
Born in Madrid to a Spanish mother and a French father who moved the family to Queens when Claire was 14 years old, she is both a beneficiary of, and contributor to, that melting pot.
In carving out her own identity amidst a blend of cultures, Claire followed a path of diverse careers — as an oil trader, a magazine publisher and now a beekeeper and small-batch artisanal food producer. Giving a beehive to her partner, Cathy, introduced apiculture into Claire’s world, and she was smitten instantly.
It’s March, and the late-Winter, early-Spring day exemplifies the paradox of the Catskills climate: bright sunshine reflects off of several feet of snow. Claire has just driven up to her Catskills home from New York City with her two dogs, Gia and Lupo, in tow; they bound out of the car and chase each other across the property’s many acres.
Claire takes a seat in the cozy and brightly-lit living room of her rustic farmhouse. She describes her life as an apiarist, highlighting the moment when “you open the hive and you hear the wind and the bees. And the volume of the hive goes up and down according to your mood;” it is a connection that, she says, is “euphoric.”
“My inspiration really was the bees and the way they work,” states Claire of her hobby-turned-career, who dove headfirst into entrepreneurism, driven by an almost blind fervor. She admits, “I basically have always had this theory of: jump in the water, then you’ll know what the temperature is. It’s not like I didn’t plan or think about [the business], but I knew what I wanted to do.”
The company launched in 2010 out of Claire’s home in Long Eddy, N.Y., located along the Delaware River in the northwest Catskills. Claire, who also maintains an apartment in Manhattan, likens her Upstate town to the Wild West, a free spirited haven that inspires “the bad kids [to] move to Long Eddy; it’s a weird little place.”
The company’s reputation was built on its raw wildflower Fall honey: a blend of chestnut, maple and aster flavors that tells an edible story of the Catskills. Claire now manages 700 hives situated throughout New York’s Delaware, Sullivan and Manhattan counties.
Maple syrup, tapped by a fifth-generation maple farmer from more than 2,000 Catskills trees, was added to the company’s product range. Incidentally, the Sugar Maple is the State Tree; it doesn’t get much more “New York” than that.
While Claire’s ideas and recipes are proprietary, they honor the region and the community from which their ingredients are sourced. When starting the business, Claire recalls that she sought to “combine what I do and my passions for beekeeping, for great food, for things that this land has. I mean, this [Catskills] maple syrup is insane. Nobody knew it. Seriously, Long Eddy has never been [listed] on any package ever.”
In addition to printing provincial attributions on the Catskill Provisions packaging, Claire takes the notion of “local” one step further by collaborating with fellow New York makers to round out her offerings. Finger Lakes Distilling, based in Burdett, N.Y., blends Claire’s honey with its rye to produce the rich, fragrant and slightly spicy New York Honey Whiskey, recipient of an 88 (out of 100) rating by both “Wine Enthusiast” and “Whisky Advocate” magazines. Flour pancake mix milled by Cayuga Pure Organics, in Brooktondale, N.Y., wends its way into Catskill Provisions’ breakfast gift sets. The benefits of these partnerships are obvious to Claire, who believes that “it’s really wonderful to be able to bring it all together and use the products made by the local people with their history, with their knowledge.” The proof is in the pudding.
Claire aspires to “benefit our state, benefit our community, and package the best possible product at all times.” Suffice it to say, she has succeeded. Claire’s foods are hand-selected by some of the most highly-regarded chefs in New York City and beyond; for many, Catskill Provisions’ honey is the only brand they use in their dishes. Elsewhere, Catskill Provisions stocks the shelves of the finest epicurean shops, including Dean & Deluca, Eataly and the New York States of Mind Marketplace.
The full line of Catskill Provisions’ small batch products enables culinary indulgence from morning until night. A brunch of pancakes or waffles doused in maple syrup can tide one over until happy hour cocktails garnished with maple sugar rims, then a dinner meat dish marinated in any of Claire’s three marinades, followed by chocolate honey truffles for dessert.
Claire has pondered the longevity of the locavore food movement — and the possibility that it may be a passing craze — but she places hope in a generation raised on organic food. She predicts, “What’s gonna save the whole movement [are] the children of today, the teenagers, the 20-somethings that insist on eggs raised humanely and free range. So all of a sudden, spending $5 on a dozen eggs that you know where they came from is not a big deal to a 20 year old. So I really believe that the good will prevail. I do believe that this side is definitely winning in making the statement of ‘It’s my position and I’m sticking to it.’”
Claire can’t imagine doing this work anywhere else. Claire raves that New York State’s natural resources for food production “are just insane, they really are.” Beyond the kitchen, she appreciates the terrain’s raw beauty. She shares, “Sometimes I’m driving, and I’ll stop the car, and I’m just in awe of the beauty of [New York]. You know, we’re really lucky, very lucky.” Above all, “It’s the state that I love, and I don’t think that I would have been able to do what I’ve done the way I’ve done it here [anywhere else]. I really don’t.”
This isn’t to say that her path has not had its fair share of bumps. The constantly changing entrepreneurial life can exhaust even the seemingly indefatigable Claire. She is only a single worker bee. She confesses, “You know, lately I’ve started to say to people, ‘If you wanna work less, don’t start your own business.’ At the same time, I wouldn’t want to be doing any other kind of work. Everything I do, I feel like I’m really moving the needle every day in the same direction. It’s kinda wild.”
Story editing by Ery Shin.