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Niskayuna will start farmers market

Niskayuna will start farmers market

Monthly event will be held in side parking lot of Niskayuna Food Co-op
Niskayuna will start farmers market
The market would be similar to Schenectady's Green Market, pictured in 2015.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

Farmers will load up their coolers and trucks and sell fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and carrots in Niskayuna this summer.

Town officials on Wednesday announced a monthly farmers market will be held in the side parking lot of the Niskayuna Food Co-op on Nott Street, starting Saturday, July 13.

The market program will be called "Second Saturdays" – for the second Saturday of each month – and run through early fall.

The town considered a market last year, at different places.

The original plan, according to the Niskayuna Farmers Market Facebook page, was Fridays at Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Niskayuna Town Hall from noon to 4 p.m.

Some residents complained the day and time were not convenient. There were also concerns a busy market could present a challenge for people visiting Town Hall on business.

A Saturday market at Town Hall, and a Friday market at River Road Park, also were discussed. The market plan was shelved late last summer.

Artisan craft designers, musicians and community groups are also expected to participate in the start-up at the co-op.

Denise Murphy McGraw, a town councilwoman who studied the issue with members of a town community programs committee – which met Wednesday morning to discuss the market – said Saturday was chosen partly because town officials have heard the Saturday market traditionally held on Upper Union Street may not continue this year.

A phone message left with the Upper Union Street business district was not immediately returned.

"With that information, as well as what we saw in the more than 700, 800 survey responses we got on the topic, Saturday mornings would probably work best," McGraw said.

Councilwoman Lisa Weber, who chairs the community programs committee, said a committee of community volunteers will be established to coordinate the market and seek vendors. "We'd like to focus on highlighting local products," Weber said.

She believes the town wants the market.

"Residents who participated in the survey in the fall expressed a desire to have the farmers market and indicated they'd prefer it on Saturday and Saturday morning seemed to be the most popular in the community," Weber said. "We're going to be starting slow with this one. It's going to be once a month on the second Saturday, so it will have kind of a special event feel. We'll see if it grows from there."

McGraw believes the co-op's side parking lot will work; the store has hosted autumn chili cook-offs in the space. The Town Hall green may not have worked, McGraw added, because uneven slopes may have prevented vendors from properly setting up.

Partnering with the co-op also removes a concern that a town-sponsored farmers market would hurt the small supermarket. McGraw expects people visiting the farmers market may then shop inside the co-op. And people shopping in the store may decide to browse the farmers market.

Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed likes a market plan that involves the co-op.

"We wanted to be cognizant of the fact we do have the co-op market, which is a small community-based market that really almost operates as a farmers market itself," Syed said. "They carry a lot of local produce.

"What we didn't want to do is set up our market as a competing interest right down the street," Syed added. "One of the best results that came out of today's meeting was the fact we are going to be working with the co-op, hosting it in their side parking lot."

Between eight and 12 vendors are being sought for the market, which McGraw said could expand.

"If the worst thing is we don't have enough space, we've won," she said.

The first year, McGraw added, will let organizers see what works and what does not work. "And then really go gangbusters the following year," she said.

Co-op officials are ready to welcome local farmers to their pavement.

“While key details still need to be worked out, the Niskayuna Co-op is happy to offer outdoor space next to our store for three farmers market events this summer as a first step," said Sarah Bilofsky, a member of the co-op board, in an e-mailed statement. "It makes sense, because the co-op is a hub for our community and we already hold several successful events like the annual Chili Cook-Off at the store. Plus, we see ourselves as Niskayuna’s farmer’s market, given the dozens of local farmers and products we carry."

Bilofsky added, "The Niskayuna Co-op is pleased to help provide an opportunity to pilot an outdoor farmer’s market event to gauge public interest. We look forward to working with the town and a committee of community members which will be charged with organizing and managing the events.”

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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