The little farmers market tucked away at the edge of Schenectady is blossoming into a successful enterprise.
The Bellevue neighborhood market just won a $3,500 state grant, through the FreshConnect program, to support its third year of operation. The grant is half as much as the market was offered the first two years, but that’s because the organizers said they didn’t need as much money this year.
They have the vendors, the equipment, the location. All they need now is exposure.
“We just needed it for advertising and promotion. We thought it was fair, [asking for] $3,500. Make sure there’s enough money for another small market,” said Jacquie Hurd, president of Bellevue Preservation Inc. The neighborhood association runs the market.
She had been checking the state websites every day, waiting eagerly for word on whether the market would win a grant. She was delighted to finally get the good news.
The market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday at 2176 Broadway, outside the Maranatha Ministries church.
It has built quite a following in its first two years. The market averaged about 370 people, with more than 500 people on some days, Hurd said. Food stamp sales tripled from the first year to the second, although the total still wasn’t very high, Hurd added. About $1,000 in food stamp sales were made last year.
The market has two goals: to provide convenient, high-quality, locally grown produce, and to reach low-income residents who otherwise would have difficulty buying fresh vegetables and fruits.
The neighborhood is a “food desert” because the nearest grocery store is miles away. Those without cars often end up buying from corner stores, most of which don’t sell produce.
Although food stamp sales were low, Hurd said she was pleased by the high number of people who walked to the market last year.
For drivers, it’s also near the border with Rotterdam, giving the market potential customers beyond city limits.
And that’s not a bad thing.
They want “to provide fresh local foods for all income groups,” Hurd said.
The market did well enough last year that every farmer is returning, she added. That means there’s just one thing left to make the market self-sufficient. “The big thing is advertising and promotion,” she said. “Just getting our name out there.”