The days are getting shorter and colder, so it’s back inside for the Schenectady Greenmarket. This farmers market is a success story if ever there were one, exceeding the expectations of everyone, including its organizers. And as it goes into its second year, with more vendors and more variety, all the signs point to continued prosperity.
The farmers market wasn’t exactly an original idea. In fact, the 1999 Hunter master plan for downtown Schenectady called for one. Planners, the same people who used to push for highways and neighborhood-killing urban renewal projects in cities, now see them as a major tool for downtown revitalization, and many communities now have one. But few are as successful as Schenectady’s. Why?
One reason is that the organziers did their homework that first year and got vendors who were really committed to the market and actually produced the stuff they were selling.
Another is the location — not in some shed or parking lot on the periphery of downtown, but right in the middle of it. In the winter the market is held at Proctors’ Walter Robb Alley and downstairs; in the summer, it’s on Jay Street in front of City Hall. Both have that strong sense of place and community that people are looking for, and naturally attracted to.
The timing was also right in two important respects. In the last few years, more Americans have come to see the importance — for environmental, farmland preservation and health reasons — of eating good, fresh, locally grown food.
And recent improvements in downtown Schenectady also helped. Five years ago, Walter Robb Alley didn’t even exist, and far fewer people were willing, if not eager, to come downtown on Sundays. Once they did, they felt good about what they found, kept coming back, and, like a well-tended crop, the Schenectady Greenmarket grew. Good for it, good for the other merchants who have begun opening on Sunday to take advantage of the crowds, good for Schenectady.