Trumansburg, New York is a community of 1500 people in the Village and 4500 in the Town of Ulysses. Trumansburg is a very collaborative and creative place where lutiers, financiers, farmers, teachers, carpenters all meet at the local coffee shop to klatch and plan. Trumansburg is a project kind of place. We give money, but what we love more than anything is a dish to pass, a community build, a project we can make happen. We have an annual music festival, The GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, which for over 20 years has brought the world to our hamlet—and we have embraced that spirit of community and power that comes on the local level. This spirit leaks into pretty much anything that happens here, including our Farmers Market.
Our little farmers market sits on a small, triangular village park on Main Street in Trumansburg, New York. It is a young market that started under the big willow tree with several farmers who came together to sell produce and food to the local populace. There was interest and this little market grew. Grew so much that a grant was applied for, and funds were raised by the community to build a pair of roofed pavillions and a bandstand in this little park to formalize this market and move it forward. A local architect and community team designed these structures and over a 4 month period, built it over a series of weekends as a community build. There were people of every shape and size building our market with lunches brought in from local restaurants and families who wanted to contribute. It was truly a remarkable moment which for me fully defined what we were capable of as a village. It was sheer positive energy directed at making something wonderful that would enhance our life on this little Main Steet place.
That was four years ago. Today, the Market boasts a thriving community of farmers, producers, restaurants and caterers, and artisans that come together from mid May to the end of October, every Wednesday from 4-7 in the afternoon and early evening. It is dinner time, and the community turns out to do the circuit and shop, eat and meet up with friends. We have live music every week (pro-bono—but a hat is passed) and occasionally, we will have movie night after the market when we have a screen put up, and movies played with prizes, popcorn and even one evening last summer, rootbeer floats for everyone! Heaven.
We entertain, we enchant, we feed, we involve people and and, we also sell produce and sandwiches, eggs, wine, hard cider and cheese, bread, horseradish jelly and garlic scape pesto. But we need it all to move forward. The market is a three way gimbol— balancing the needs and expectations of the farmer/producer with the needs and expectations of the consumer along with the needs and expectations fo the community. As much as we would like it to be as simple as selling celery, in order for this market to have roots, we need to address all three in the most engaging, out of the box way. If we can charm and provide a treat along with educate and inform, we have a chance of sustainable success for our local food producers and eaters.
The interesting thing as I think about the market and how to talk about it—I keep reflecting on the farmers markets of my life. Growing up, my mother and I went to a farmers market in a very dicey neighborhood in Pittsburgh that must have been in a garage or something. It was an indoors market, very dark and dreary. We would go to see Mr. Kutz (from Central PA) with his red haired, apple cheeked daughters to buy eggs and chickens and occasionally something green. Somehow the green stuff always came from Giant Eagle.
The next snapshot was learning about the Ithaca Market and watching it grow. The concept that local food, or organic food would have any significant foothold was totally alien at the time. Food Co-ops and natural food stores when I was in college were grungy places that smelled odd, and the produce was less than hearty or robust. It was more about tea than it was about food, at least for me.
Moving ahead again, I was sent to the Natural Foods and Products Convention in Anaheim (1989) when I was working for Estee Lauder. I was sent to get an eyeful of what was happening in this Natural world…particularly that of the channel of beauty and cosmetics. I was sent to better understand the competition so as to be able to leverage the power of this beauty brand, the funds and product development we had, and take it to the next level from the grungy health food store to counters at Neiman Marcus and Nordstoms. I was horrified (and delighted I was wearing my badge backwards) when I sat in on a personal products break out session , when a leading light in the natural foods store beauty business pulled out an article hinting at Estee Lauder getting into the natural products world. This woman proclaimed that those in the business had better raise their sights as the competition was just about to get bigger, and they couldnt just be natural product people…but needed to improve their marketing, their image, their brand. They could not rest happily in the dusty food coops and needed to up their game. The concept of a Whole Foods was beyond imagination.
Now, look at where we are. Whole Foods is a reality. Organic produce is available at WALMART?! People really are reading the labels. Packaging is more responsible. The CSAs are booming…and popping up everywhere…can this continue? How is going to evolve? What is the model? How can anticipate this? or should we? Can the Trumansburg Market be the incubator for these new products and farms? Can we have a lovely night of stars, and friends, food, and bags of leeks and organic eggs while supporting local agriculture and thus supporting the betterment of those around us? I think we can. We are a community of do-ers…and this seems right up our alley.
Now that I got that off my chest, I can think about the board a bit more. Thanks for your patience.