Though its continued operation seemed dubious as of the end of the 2013 harvest season, the Rosendale Farmers’ Market has found a new home. Its organizers seem pleased with where they’ve landed. The Rosendale Theatre parking lot right behind the cinema at 408 Main Street (Route 213) is centrally located.
“We’ve made a good transition from the rec center,” said Billy Liggan, president and treasurer of the market’s volunteer board of directors. “The reception has been very good.”
The initial founding of the Rosendale Farmers’ Market was a community-based response to the absence of a retail outlet for locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables in the Rosendale hamlet after the former Springtown Greengrocers building changed ownership. The new business on the site, Market Market, quickly evolved into a restaurant. The farmers’ market has been operated for several years at the Rosendale Recreation Center on Route 32, which afforded high visibility and ample parking space.
As the town government was seeking a half-million-dollar grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation toward replacement of the deteriorated Rosendale pool, town officials were informed of some legal fine print attached to the original funding for the rec center forbidding the use of the site for anything not strictly defined as recreation. Hosting any activity primarily geared toward retail transactions, like the market, could be seen as non-compliance on the town’s part and potentially jeopardize any future state funding.
Vendors, organizers and regular users of the farmers’ market were outraged. They lobbied the town vigorously to maintain what many viewed as an ideal site. But town officials said that their hands were tied and that the market needed to find a new home for the 2014 season.
Other sites were looked at. Several town-owned (but not legally encumbered) parcels were considered and rejected for being too remote from the center of town. Organizers eyed the Willow Kiln Park – the site for one of the Rosendale Street Festival stages, also located behind the Rosendale Theatre – as a potential site. Here again there were legal issues, according to Liggan. “In May, when time was running out for us to find a site, the town was in the middle of renegotiating the lease for the park. So they couldn’t give us a clear go-ahead.”
With market season imminent, a call went out to local businesses and private landowners to help out. The Rosendale Theatre Collective – the not-for-profit entity that owns and operates the cinema – stepped into the breach. While the new parking-lot site is smaller than the market’s old home on Route 32, Liggan noted that it has some advantages over the previously proposed Willow Kiln Park site. “Suppose some week it rains all day the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before, and the vendors’ trucks got stuck in the mud” in the grassy park, he said.
Staging the weekly event in the Rosendale Theatre parking lot still requires review by the town and county planning boards. No apparent opposition has yet emerged in a community that’s clearly hungry for a return to salad-ingredient normalcy. Final approval from the Rosendale planning board – of which Liggan is chair, though he must recuse himself from voting in this case – is expected at that body’s next meeting on the second Thursday in July.
Meanwhile, with the town government’s blessing, the farmers’ market had its 2014 opening at the new site on June 1. “The turnout the first week was very, very good,” reported Liggan. “We’ve been growing as we go.”
By the June 22 market, 14 vendors showed up. “We have lost some vendors” as a result of the move, Liggan acknowledged. “But every year we lose some old ones and gain some new ones…. We try not to have much duplication.”
The variety of fruits and vegetables on offer expands as the season progresses. While waiting for the various harvests to come in, market patrons are offered a varied selection of baked goods, beverages, honey, pickles and preserves in addition to early produce. “We hope to have a meat spot filled within a couple of weeks,” Liggan said. One of his goals as market organizer is to find a USDA-approved source for goat meat, an important ingredient in Caribbean and some types of Asian cuisine.
Liggan also anticipates a swift return of the cooking demonstrations that were a popular feature of past markets at the rec center site. The tradition of having live acoustic music during the market has already been revived, and children’s activities are provided between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
All that remains is to make sure that folks who frequented the old site know about the new one. Liggan and the other members of the board plans to roll out better signage, banners and flyers to augment the good word-of-mouth and lively Facebook presence that the market already enjoys.
“The Rosendale Theatre has been very gracious in making this new site available,” Liggan said. “There are a lot of things happening on Main Street, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
The Rosendale Farmers’ Market takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, rain or shine, through the end of October, with the exception of the weekend of the Rosendale Street Festival (July 20). For more information, call 658-8348 or visit the market’s Facebook website.