May 09, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
In two weeks the Skaneateles Farmers’ Market will open for the 2012 season outside the Austin Park Pavilion. This year there will be at least two more vendors than last year, with an increase in shoppers expected as well.
“Last year we saw a lot of new faces at the market — a lot of familiar ones too — but a lot of new ones,” said Gene LaForte, town parks employee and assistant market manager.
“The locals have been very supportive of our farmers and they’ve really gotten behind the market,” added Sue Murphy, administrative aide to the town board and manager of the farmers’ market. “People are excited [for the May opening].”
The Skaneateles Farmers’ Market has been around for many years, managed through the town government and run by town employees, although the town makes only enough money through vendor fees to pay for market expenses. It is a community service from the town rather than a money-maker, Murphy said.
The Skaneateles Farmers’ Market started around 2000 outside the Austin Park Pavilion, moved to the Skaneateles Community Center and last year returned to the pavilion, which proved to be a good move that garnered “a lot of positive feedback,” Murphy said.
One reason the market has been so successful is that it is “strictly a farmers’ market,” Murphy said. Only farm-fresh products are allowed to be sold, no crafts or non-farmed items. “You wouldn’t believe how many requests we turn away every year from craft sellers,” she said. “Some places make it an event or carnival with music, and events and things. We are an agricultural market.”
In addition to offering only agricultural produce, vendors must agree to and abide by the regulation of an 80/20 commitment — 80 percent of a farmer’s goods must be produced on their farm, and 20 percent is allowed to be resale goods.
The main purpose of this regulation is to ensure all products sold are fresh and healthy, cultivated and harvested in safe and healthy ways.
“The people who grow it are the ones who sell it,” LaForte said. “People who come here can be certain this way that it is all local, fresh and safe.”
Murphy and LaForte verify this not only on paper, but also in person. Part of their job managing the farmers’ market is to visit each participating vendor’s farm and ensure the farmer is practicing sound, safe and healthy agricultural operations.
“It’s all really for the customer and the end sale, so the customers know they got good clean, wholesome products,” LaForte said.
This knowledge of obtaining fresh and healthy food is one of many reasons people utilize farmers’ markets and why farmers’ markets are becoming more prevalent and more popular in recent years, said Mark E. Burger, executive director of the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District and program manager for the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program.
“We love farmers’ markets; they have so many benefits,” Burger said. “You can meet the farmers that produced that food and question them about their growing practices and handling practices, and even go to the farm to see how and where the food is produced. It helps reconnect people to the land, and it’s a low carbon footprint because the food is not grown in a state far away and shipped to Central New York via a lot of fossil fuel use.”
Additionally, buying from farmers’ markets gives money directly to the farmers, avoids the middle man and helps ensure a standard of living that will keep the farmer on the land for many years to come, Burger said. Keeping farms on the landscape also maintain open spaces and vistas that keep the region an attractive place to live.
Many of the vendors participating in this year’s market are excited for the season to begin as well.
“We are in our third year of farming food for market, just my husband and I, and we have been at the Cazenovia market the past two summers,” said Lacey Scriven of Mountain Grown Farms in Jamesville, one of this year’s new vendors. “We joined the Skaneateles market because we have increased production and are trying to support the farm. We are excited to meet new customers at the market.” Mountain Grown Farms grows all natural vegetables and has a wine grape vineyard that’s a few years from producing a crop, Scriven said.
Barbara McVey, of Pompey Gold Vineyards in Jamesville, the second new vendor at this year’s market, said they are also excited about branching out to Skaneateles. “We are a vineyard, and in a good year have lots of fruit, but so far this year the weather hasn’t been very cooperative,” she said. McVey said this year they will offer items such as garlic, shallots, onions, assorted summer vegetables and they are hoping for shitake mushrooms, if the weather cooperates.
Robert Horsford, owner of Horsford Farms in Weedsport, who has been selling at the Skaneateles Farmers’ Market for about eight years, also commented on the “goofy” spring weather and lack of a winter. “I don’t appreciate these cold nights, but I keep telling myself it’s only April,” he said.
Horsford this year will bring items to the market such as lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe and tomatoes.
“I’m very enthusiastic about farmers’ markets; they seem to be growing,” Horsford said. “The Skaneateles market is run fantastically. Sue and Gene do a wonderful job. The patrons really are very supportive of us and they appreciate us too. They love seeing us come back. It’s wonderful. They’re good people.”
The Skaneateles Farmers’ Market will be open from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday afternoons and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday mornings again this year. There are currently a total of 22 vendors signed up to participate.
The Thursday market officially opens May 24 and will run through Oct. 11; the Saturday market officially opens June 16 and runs through Oct. 13.
The market is still accepting applications for vendors. To download the forms visit the town website at …
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles press. He can be reached at editorskaneatelespress.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.