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February 6, 2014

Farmers' Market recruiting new vendors

By Katharine Morgan Contributing Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The Cooperstown Farmers Market is recruiting new vendors for the 2014 season.

“If you produce a high quality food product which is uniquely local, farm-raised or hand-made featuring locally grown ingredients or materials, you may be interested in selling your product at our Farmers’ Market,” said Lyn Weir, manager of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market and Agricultural Programs at Otsego 2000.

Weir announces that, in addition to sponsoring the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market since 1991, Otsego 2000 is also launching a survey of food and agricultural entrepreneurs to further their endeavors.

In particular, the survey is intended to determine the demand for a commercial kitchen.

“All food entrepreneurs within a 50 mile radius who need access to a commercial kitchen should respond to this survey. It’s crucial to recognize our community’s needs before we go further,” Weir said.

To access this survey use link:  http://questionpro.com/t/AKjbzZQdMe.

The market features 25-30 vendors and operates year round.

“We’re the only heated market in the region, and we receive approximately 42,000 visits a year,” Weir said. “We’re looking for six to eight new part-time vendors. The Tuesday market in July and August also has room to grow if new vendors are interested.”

Current markets have had produce, meats, baked goods, dairy products, wine and spirits, and artisan crafts for sale.

Demonstrating an inclusive response to various needs in the community, the Farmers’ Market has developed a niche among customers with dietary restrictions by offering organic, grass fed, soy free, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free specialties.

Weir said she advises perspective vendors to look the list over to see where their product might fit in the merchandise mix. “What do you grow or make that we don’t have?” she said. “That is the question you should be asking, to see if there is a good fit between vendor and market.”

She has a long list of niches that can be filled.

“Specifically, we are actively seeking locally farmed fish, Cornish Game Hens, herbal teas, wine, beer, and spirits, flour seeds, nuts, oil, fresh ginger and vinegar,” Weir said. “We do not have fresh mozzarella or cottage cheese. Fresh or dried pasta may do well here. In the artisan arena, utilitarian wooden bowls, a basket maker, or a weaver could find a place here.”

Out of all these gaps, Weir said she laments the lack of a fish farmer the most. “I’ve even tried to talk my daughter into starting a fish farm,” she said, laughing. Arctic Char and Tilapia are both types of fish that lend themselves successfully to being farmed in this area.

Several components factor into increased consumer interest in the Farmers’ Market.

“We’ve recently had vendors selling stored produce as well as frozen produce from the summer months,” Weir said.

Additionally, the focus on root vegetables has had a marked effect. Weir stresses her efforts to get organic milk sold at the market.

Saturday’s Market during the Winter gets less traffic than summer, but vendors like Daniel Byler, from Mountain View Dairy in Richfield Springs, still find it well worth the effort.

“It’s a little slow here sometimes in the winter, but we try to be here for our regulars,” he said. “And, I make almost all my contacts here to sell my cheese elsewhere, like local restaurants and shops. We sell to the Origins Cafe here in town. I also get to network with other producers and get to know my customers.”

Paul Deysenroth, of Byebrook Farm in Bloomville makes a similar claim.

“I come here for my regular customers,” he said. “They can come buy at the farm, but I like to maintain a presence in the Farmers’ Market too. I’m too busy during the summer with crops, so we just come in the winter. This year has definitely picked up from last year.”

Weir points out that the Market tries to maintain optimum conditions for sellers to succeed.

“A few years ago, we had so many vendors offering meat it was hard to have sellers make prices competitive and still make money. Our current application process gives us a chance to balance the vendors so farmers can make a profit,” she said.

Weir said Otsego 2000 believes the push for a 20-C Commercial kitchen will be successful. “We have some possible facilities in our area. The survey is the next step to make this happen,” she said.

Often local food producers do not have a licensed place to make their product, and building a commercial kitchen is not financially feasible. Producers could rent time during the week to make their product in a licensed kitchen.

Another profit-making opportunity for farmers are Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which pairs buyers with farmers to procure a weekly box of produce.

Weir says the market startedCSAs last year, and are having great success.

“About 25 area families preordered their produce for the season from three farms at the market; one offers organic veggies, one traditional fruit, veggies, and preserves, and the other, an orchard, offers a fruit farm-share,” she said. “We had one farm pick-up on Tuesday and the other two CSAs were a pick-up on Saturdays. Last year we offered a 28-week farm-share, this year we are working out the details for a additional offering that caters to the summer residents time frame.”

Details should be available later around March.

“This program really helps produce and orchard businesses with cash flow in the winter when the expense for planting supplies and repairing equipment occurs,” Weir said.

The vendor applications are available under ‘For Vendors’, ‘How to Apply’ on the website, www.CooperstownFarmersMarket.org. Applications should be submitted before Feb. 28.

For more information please contact Lyn Weir, (607)547-6195 or visit market@otsego2000.org