The end of days — in sunshine and cool breezes — has nearly arrived for Susie Kliese.
On a recent October Sunday, she sold her organic line of pickled beets, corn relish, pickles, guinea and duck eggs at the Schenectady Greenmarket near City Hall. Cool air and gloomy gray skies had persuaded shoppers to dress in blue jeans, windbreakers and sweatshirts. The walking shorts and T-shirts of August and September were no longer in play.
“I can’t wait to go inside,” said Kliese, proprietor of Susie’s Climax Creations in Climax, west of Coxsackie. “There will be better weather, and I’m tired of all this rain.”
Schenectady’s popular summer market will close at the end of October. Kliese and dozens of other local farmers and food producers will move their goods to Proctors for late autumn, winter and early spring sales.
WHERE: Outside City Hall through Oct. 30. Inside Proctors November through April
WHEN: Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
MORE INFO: http://schenectadygreenmarket.org
It’s an easy decision to make for farmers who sell their cheese, meats, vegetables and fruits year-round. More and more producers are taking steps to ensure steady revenue streams by selling at markets for 12 months instead of five or six.
“Last year, we had about 70 winter markets out of about 480,” said Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York State.
With 520 markets now established across New York, Eggert believes the number of winter operations will rise as leaves fall. “I’m expecting we’ll be closer to 100, based on interest that I’ve heard from market managers in locating a site for winter markets.”
Winter markets have become more popular during the past three to five years, she said. A big reason for the market boom is that customers want local, farm-produced foods throughout the year. Farmers who store crops in cool cellars or produce edibles such as salad greens in high tunnels — enclosed growing spaces similar to greenhouses — have no problem meeting the demand.
Mary Moore Wallinger, chairwoman of the Greenmarket’s vendor relations and operations committee, said the market was designed as a year-round operation from the beginning. “We felt it was important to support our farmers all year long,” she said. “If you’re going to have a real successful destination market, you need to have it year-round so you can build your customer base. . . . You want to be able to provide the local product that people come to depend on a regular basis.”
About 70 vendors will bring tables to Proctors and sell their wares in spaces outside the GE Theater, in Robb Alley near the Proctors box office and in the theater’s downstairs education center. About 55 vendors are on the streets during the summer.
Pluses and minuses
Farmers at the Greenmarket say there are advantages and disadvantages with the change in venue.
Come November, Kliese said, weather will no longer be an issue. On that recent gray Sunday, she was wearing a blue windbreaker over two shirts. Because she expected rain, she had packed a change of clothing. The extra garments were not necessary in July and August.
“I like it all, I’ve had a blast,” she said, “but it gets a little daunting in the summer, with the humidity. On this pavement, it gets a little hot.”
The Proctors experience, Kliese added, is different from the shopping place at Jay and Liberty streets. “It’s a totally different market inside,” she said. “It’s more like a party atmosphere for the vendors. You’re closer together, it’s a little more intimate, I think.”
Michelle Petuske of Waterford said the new seasons will improve prospects for her Pixie’s Preserves business. She believes people think more about her pineapple and cherry jams, apple crisps and wine and ale jams once weather becomes colder. “When it’s toast season,” she said.
Petuske also said the new location means new customers. People who come to the fall and winter market will also be coming to matinees at Proctors. “They might not even know the market exists because they’re coming from out of town,” she said.
Like Petuske, Canajoharie’s Jeff Hill of Palatine Cheeses expects a bump in business during autumn and winter, during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. “I wish there were holidays and parties every week,” he said. “We’d sell a lot of cheese.”
It’s not perfect for everyone. Gavi Cohen, co-owner of Our Daily Bread in Chatham, said he and others will miss the sunshine and breezes that come with the summer market. But less humidity is better for his loaves and rolls. And he and his family business partners will still be outside at one of New York City’s big markets.
“Union Square goes all year, and it’s outside all year,” he said.
The Farmers’ Market Federation’s Eggert believes some farmers and shoppers enjoy the outdoor experience during the cold weather months. “If you look at the Rochester public market, they run year-round and they stay outdoors through the winter,” she said.
“Farmers put up a plastic shed around themselves, put in some type of heater and they’re absolutely crowded throughout the season. Customers love going there even in the dead of winter. It was 20 degrees when I was there, and I couldn’t believe the number of customers walking through the market making purchases.”
She said part of the winter outdoors appeal is the novelty factor. “But I also think there’s a connection — farmers are outdoors, they work outdoors,” she said. “The markets are outdoors and that’s what people expect. It makes them feel they’re in the right place.”
Sometimes, Eggert added, market directors have to keep reminding shoppers a summer market will continue into fall and winter.
“It’s a learning curve, definitely, but it always is in terms of farmers’ markets,” she said. “There’s a learning curve trying to make consumers in the area aware that you’re there. It’s the same with markets that are going to transition to a winter market. They have to do a lot of work to make the consumers aware of that. But the consumers who come also love the idea that they can still benefit from purchasing market products.”
The Saratoga and Troy markets also move inside until next spring. Saratoga food sellers will leave High Rock Avenue at the end of October and begin their winter market operations in November. Produce and products will be available Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Division Street Elementary School at 220 Division St.
In Troy, the outdoor Saturday and Wednesday markets on River Street and Broadway, respectively, will close after late October dates. The winter market, November through April, will be held Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Uncle Sam Atrium, Fulton at Third and Fourth streets.
The Capital District Farmers’ Market in Menands will not move inside. General Manager Fred Cole said that while the group’s wholesalers will work through the year, the public market will close down its Saturday schedule after the Oct. 29 gathering.
Running the public market year-round has been discussed, Cole said, “but we really don’t see the demand. Troy has an indoor market, Saratoga and Schenectady do. Troy’s right across the river. We don’t have any problem referring people to that.”
Tom Maynard of Maynard Farms in Ulster Park said his storage crops — celery root, apples and onions among them — will see him through the winter market at Proctors. He doesn’t worry about any shortages.
“Brussels sprouts haven’t even been picked yet,” he said. “We won’t pick them until the first frost. We just picked green beans. Until the frost, we’re still on the program.”
Maynard says there won’t be a shortage of customers when farmers move indoors. “Pedestrian traffic actually picks up,” he said. “It’s a city, it’s not a country market. It’s not a tourist destination.”
Some Greenmarket farmers won’t keep traveling to Schenectady.
“It would be best if we could do the winter market, but because it’s our first year at the farm, we haven’t planted for that,” said Cara Fraver of Quincy Farm in Easton. “Probably for next year.”
Market regulars are just glad they’ll have someplace to go on cold and snowy Sundays.
“When it gets colder, it’s best to be inside,” said Sandy Wells of Schenectady. “Just glad to have the market all year round,” added Theresa Crane, also of Schenectady.
Some people don’t want to break their Sunday routines. A visit to City Hall is part of their weekends from May through October; shopping inside Proctors becomes the morning diversion from November through April.
“I like doing it every Sunday,” said Michelle Cahill of Niskayuna, shopping the Greenmarket with her young son, Liam, and husband, Jack. “It’s a family activity,” added Jack.
Eggert believes more winter markets are coming. Sometimes, it’s just hard to find a spot. “They’re looking at grange halls, they’re looking at schools, extension offices. In some cases, they’re finding shopping centers and vacant buildings.”
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