Access, affordibility and waste management were among the issues discussed at Wednesday’s meeting on the creation of a new and much larger farmers market in the city of Amsterdam.
The meeting at Wheeler Hall-United Presbyterian Church brought together potential vendors with those advocating for creation of the market.
“We’re not going to barge our way downtown,” said Ben Wallach, marketing director for the Niskayuna Co-op. “We want community support.”
Wallach, as well as Suzanne Carreker-Voigt, a board member of the New York State Farmers Market Federation and chairwoman of the Regional Farm and Food Project, led the conversation to identify participants’ priorities. Both highlighted the positives a larger market would bring, such as the promotion of products grown in Montgomery County and bringing area residents in to Amsterdam rather than going to Schenectady or Troy.
The market is planned to be as big as the Schenectady Greenmarket program, with music, plenty of vendors and even an animal petting area. Carreker-Voight also discussed the possibility of including a teaching component as a way of expanding knowledge of agriculture among local residents.
“There will be so many ways to pull people in,” she told the audience.
Robert von Hasseln, director of community and economic development for the city of Amsterdam, expressed the city’s support. He described Amsterdam as a unique location, someplace within driving distance of Schenectady and Albany and also surrounded by valuable farmland.
There were some concerns expressed by vendors over whether people could afford to shop at the market, whether they’d prefer to continue buying cheaper goods at places like Walmart or whether those from outside the area would drive in for the market and leave with a tarnished image of the city.
“Don’t think of Amsterdam as a poor community,” Hasseln said. “It’s a mixed community.”
He added that the city would help with the land, insurance and policing for the market.
As for worries about starting the market from scratch and the troubles it may face early on, Carreker-Voight reassured attendees at the meeting that sales might be slow at the start, but through word-of-mouth and good promotion by the vendors themselves, profits from the market should inevitably increase.
In the end, the issue for many Amsterdam residents has been access to good and healthy food. Carreker-Voight said the city is now a food desert — a place where people can’t access good and healthy food within a reasonable distance from their homes.
Tim Lane, owner of Glen Glade Farms and a mobile bakery, is interested in the larger market and spoke in favor of it during the meeting. So did Pat Becker, president of the Fulton Montgomery Farmers Market Association. However, she also said starting a market from scratch can be difficult and can draw in people who are inexperienced with selling their food in such an environment.
The city has already offered a site along Church Street, near Dunkin’ Donuts, as a possible location. The next step, according to Wallach, would be to have an event featuring local food in coming weeks to show the potential of Montgomery County to supply such a market.
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