The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is looking for a new winter home after the Saratoga Springs City School District decided the market can no longer rent space in one of its elementary schools.
Earlier this month, the district informed market organizers in writing that its lawyers said the district cannot rent space to any private entity that makes a profit unless all proceeds are given to charity. The market has been held at Division Street Elementary School every Saturday for the last four winters.
“It’s a reconsideration of their own policy, apparently,” said Charles Holub, president of the not-for-profit Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association and owner of Scotch Ridge Berry Farm in Duanesburg. “That’s their decision that they’re making. We’re moving on.”
The association is seeking proposals from businesses or organizations that have space to name the price they want for rent and list any restrictions they have. The market would like to rent 4,000 square feet in Saratoga Springs each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. from November through April.
In the winter, the market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. In the warm months, it is held outdoors Wednesdays and Saturdays at High Rock Park.
Bids are due Sept. 13, and paperwork for bidders is available at saratogafarmersmarket.org.
The association also requires the site to have parking for 85 vehicles, be heated to 60 degrees and have restrooms and electrical service.
Several sites have been informally discussed, including Universal Preservation Hall, the City Center and perhaps even the Saratoga Springs Recreation Center, but Holub said it’s too early to say whether any of them would be interested or whether the market could afford the rent.
“It’s hard to tell from a business sense if those places are willing to rent to us,” he said. He has written a letter to city officials asking for help finding a new site.
“We know there are empty places in town.”
Although the market will have to work to get out the word about a new location when organizers find one, most of the winter customers are local, so Holub believes it will be relatively easy to market the new spot.
“Saratoga’s a pretty close-knit community and word of mouth travels pretty fast,” he said.
However, if the market is unable to find a new home, it will have to close for the winter, he said.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year of the outdoor market. The winter market started in 2004 in the Salvation Army in Saratoga Springs, then moved to Division Street Elementary School in 2009 because organizers wanted to have more space and better parking.
Renting 4,000 square feet would allow the market to expand again beyond the 35 vendors that could fit in the school’s gym and nearby hallways.
“The winter market has blossomed in popularity,” he said. “Every year, we turn down a lot of farms.”
Several local farmers now grow some crops all year hydroponically or in greenhouses, and others grow a lot of root crops they can sell throughout the winter. Other winter vendors sell meat, fish, dairy, eggs, baked goods, decor and gift items.
The market has strict rules for vendors, requiring at least 70 percent of vendors to be farmers. All vendors must grow or produce their goods in Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer or Washington counties.
The market is accepting vendor applications for the indoor market from today through to 14.