Market Fresh

Here in Cattaraugus County things are getting greener by the day.  The chill of winter has subsided and in its place color has returned to the fields and hills of this beautiful area.  And accompanying all of that color is the multitude of crops and agriculture that springs to life in Western New York this time of year.
 
A fun way to broaden your horticulture horizons is to take advantage of the numerous farmers’ markets that take place throughout Cattaraugus County in the summertime.  Never been to a farmers’ market?  Picture numerous booths or tables in an outdoor venue where local farmers sell their crops.  Fruits, vegetables, meat … all this and more can be found at your local farmers’ market.  The concept behind the modern farmers’ market stems from the demand from consumers who want fresher, more organic foods that haven’t spent a long time in transit to get to the final destination.  That, along with the drive to shop local and support your local merchants, has helped fuel a newfound popularity of shopping at the farmers’ market. 
 
Given its rural landscape, it’s no surprise that Cattaraugus County has a nice variety of market options for you to choose from and in many cases there is probably a farmers’ market located closer to you than you think. 
 
Olean REAP (Rural Enterprise Association of Proprietors) Farmers’ Market
Saturdays from 8am to 1pm in the parking lot between the Carmike cinema and BJ’s. 
 
Olean Southern Tier Farmers’ Market
1900 Constitution Avenue.  Tractor Supply parking lot.
Fridays from 2pm to 6pm
 
Salamanca Southern Tier Farmers’ Market
12 Park Avenue, Salamanca.  Jefferson Park.
Tuesdays from 11am to 5pm.
 
Franklinville Southern Tier Farmers’ Market
Park Square at Route 16 and Pine Street. 
Wednesdays from 3pm to 6pm
 
South Dayton Farmers’ Market
17 Park Street, South Dayton.
Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. 
 
REAP-ing The Benefits of Fresh Produce
 
Saturday, May 16 marked the first REAP Farmers’ Market gathering of the season.  This longstanding market has been running in Olean for approximately 30 years and the turnout on the 16thwas a testament to the following that the market has built over the years.  Despite the threat of rain, there were about 15 vendors on-site and a steady flow of customers.
 
Geoff Buckner has been involved with REAP for about fifteen years and is now the market manager for the group.  He says that with the new broad based marketing approach that REAP has taken (newspapers, radio, online and on Facebook) there has been an uptick in the consumer age demographics; especially when it comes to younger people.
 
Historically, the farmers’ market has been a place where local merchants can make some extra money and showcase their wares to people who might otherwise not be aware of the merchant or what they have to offer.  As of late, however, the farmers’ market has become an almost, dare I say, trendy way to shop.  Between the push to “shop local” and a generally more informed consumer, it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the popularity of the local farmers’ market has never been higher.
 
According to Mark Printz with Canticle Farm out of Allegany, NY, “The big thing about the farmers’ market is that you can come and meet the producer. You get to meet the people that bake the bread or raise the pig.  It gives you that connection.”  This accessibility is a factor that consumers are starting to demand more and more of when making purchasing decisions - especially when it comes to food. 
 
Printz, who has a spot on the REAP Board of Directors, also pointed out that “people want to know where their food is coming from and how it is being grown.  With us (local farmers) people can trace back the origins of the food.”
 
Kimberly LaMendola, an artisan who crafts and sells organic soaps through her Kumbha Moon Soap Company, is deeply involved with the promotion and growth of the local farmers’ market scene through her full-time job at Southern Tier West (www.southerntierwest.org).  The regional planning and development agency is home to the Local Foods Program that LaMendola oversees, where the focus is to enhance local food efforts across the southern tier.  The Local Food Guide that Southern Tier West has online at southerntierwest.org/htm/food.html is probably the most comprehensive local food resource available for this area.  The guide covers everything from what produce is fresh at any given point in the year, to information on the farmers’ markets, to data on where you can find certain produce. 
 
Through the efforts of the Local Foods Program, distributors are now making connections that they might not necessarily have in the past and creating their own distribution pipeline.  “If someone has extra sweet corn in Chautauqua County and we know that someone is at a farmers’ market in Allegany County and they are short of it (sweet corn) they are starting to make those relationships themselves,” said LaMendola.  Those relationships are allowing farmers to move produce throughout the three counties (Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua) more efficiently, which benefits both the individual farmer as well as the overall farmers’ market scene.
 
According to LaMendola, the promotion of the farmers’ markets location and diversity of vendors has been key in terms of drawing in new customers, but at the same time Southern Tier West is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work with the various market managers and vendors to make their whole experience better because at the end of the day, not only are the vendors a business but the market itself is a business.
 
As with any other business, trends matter!  And right now farmers’ markets are trending upward.  “Consumers are driving the demand everywhere, nationwide, for local food,” said LaMendola.  “Whether it’s because we’ve had some foodborne illnesses in our national food supply, whether it’s because we’re becoming more aware of how food is made, consumers are informed and they are actually driving the demand.  The farmers’ market trend is being driven by consumer demand for local food and consumers want to make relationships with people growing their food.”
 
The local farmers’ market season is just getting started so you have plenty of time to visit some different markets and check out the variety of vendors and what they have to offer.  Your taste buds will thank you!
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