The Influence of the Arts in our Markets Lessons from Burlington, VT

Hello everyone! Pardon my delay in getting up any recent posts as I have been well immersed into a summer session graduate class at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I am excited to continue to study the relationship of our farmers’ markets and community and will begin filming and documenting interviews with our local market vendors and attendees. Stay updated by subscribing to my blog and as always your feedback is extremely welcome and appreciated!

I have decided to focus this blog entry on the relationship of the Arts and our local Farmers’ Markets. I am a tremendous believer in the power of artistic expression and its ability to foster and grow community and I have pursued electives in the Arts including an Art Gallery Managment class here at RIT in an effort to understand the role that Art can play in community. My undergraduate degree is in Music Industry from SUNY College at Oneonta in Oneonta, NY and my desire is to continue to create places of community and vibrancy around the Arts and music.

On a recent trip to across New England, I happened to visit in Burlington, Vermont on the way back to New York. To my surprise and delight it turned out that the Burlington Farmers’ Market happened to be in full swing the morning of my arrival. The market was a tremendous explosion of people, fresh produce, beautiful fresh cut flowers, music, maple syrup (of course!) and prepared foods and most surprisingly, the Arts!

The market featured a beautiful selection of artistic goods including pottery, blown glass, wood and ironwork, hand-spun clothing, jewelry, framed prints and even natural soaps. The market tremendously highlighted the local craftsmen and woman from the area and brought an incredible dynamic to an already fresh and vibrant market.

Pottery in the market

Hand thrown pottery from Roof Top Pottery in Burlington, VT

This Burlington Farmers’ Market held in the City Hall Park brought a new focus to the Arts that I have not seen with any other market I have experienced since Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, WA. The fact that this was a purely outdoor market (versus Pike’s Place) made this even more impressive. It honestly dawned on me for the first time that the Arts ability to create community, and my belief in our farmers markets to become centers of community and “third places” could be paired together in the same vision!

People enjoying food and music at Burlington's Farmers' Market

The Vermont farmers market has been running for over 30 Years since its inception in 1980 and by all appearnces this market was every bit of the expression of Burlington that I could experience. There is something purely human about expresses oneself in your dedicated craft or trade and I genuinely felt that both the farmers’ and the artists represented this with passion and a commitment to excellence.

Beautiful produce at the Burlington Farmers' Market

It is my genuine hope that we will translate this influence of the Arts to our local markets here in Rochester, NY. We have a tremendous wealth here in the Arts and our city is built around the creation and history of photography with George Eastman. Our local colleges in the area including RIT continue to educate in the arts and now we even have community based arts programs including “First Fridays” that highlight our local galleries and talents every first friday of the month. If we can place emphasis on bringing the Arts into our Farmers’ Markets here I can only assume the quality of our local markets will be even greater and the possibility for community

How do you feel about the the Arts and music in our markets? Do you agree that the expression of these adds to the value and community that is being cultivated? Have you experienced a market where the Arts or Music are highlighted? Your feedback is welcome! Thank You!

On the web:

The Burlington, VT Farmer’s Market

Burlington, VT Farmers Market Facebook

First Friday-Citywide Gallery Night in Rochester, NY

George Eastman House-Rochester, NY

Gallery R-Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology

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Reaching Beyond our Farmers’ Markets-The Good Food Collective

As stated in my previous post, I wanted to devote my next entry to the conversation I had with Chris Hartman about the Good Food Collective and the idea of our region’s local rural farms looking for ways to get food into urban communities.

Chris was generous enough to take the time to talk with me in detail about the South Wedge Farmers’ Market and his desire to build off of the Farmers’ Markets to continue to find ways to bring healthy food into the communities of Rochester.

He was the founder or the South Wedge Farmers Market back in 2007. The market was started with a desire to infuse an urban neighborhood with producer-only vendors from  farms across central New York State. The Good Food Collective is a gathering of  local farms and is demonstrating a new model to bring local food into Rochester.

In my conversation with Chris, he highlighted the wonderful benefits of what something like a local farmers’ market means, and spoke of the same ideas of “place-making” and the idea that farmers’ markets are rich in social capital…the wealth and value that each person brings who attends that market (the Regulars per “Farmers Markets as Place-making”).

There are great positives to having farmers’ markets, but Chris also pointed out the issue with farmers’ markets being inefficient. Why is this the case? The access to fresh food is limited. Traditionally local markets only run once a week and for a few hours. They are seasonal and weather dependent, and farmers travel great distances (in this case up to 100 miles) to bring fresh food to market. Even the hours they spend at market may take away from other farming duties. With the belief that farmers markets should continue to exist, Chris also stated the need to create localized food systems that would benefit the community as a whole over the long-term.

Chris Hartman from the Good Food Collective explains his vision for a community food network

This is where the Good Food Collective excels. The Good Food Collective is a collaboration of Chris’ company, Head Water Foods Inc., and the partnership of nine other local farms. Those farms differ in their offerings but I have listed them below with a brief description and links so you may learn more about each of them.

The nine farms represented include:

Chicory Blue-featuring cut flowers, and pesticide/fertilizer-free vegetables

Clearview Farm-certified organic vegetables herbs and fruit, non-organic free range eggs

East Hill Organic Farm-organically grown vegetables, honey, apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, eggs, and hay

Fraser’s Garlic Farm– organic garlic, potatoes, leafy vegetables, root crops, edible pumpkins and certified organic eggs from free-range chickens.

Honeyhill Farm-certified organic, pasture-raised chickens & beef, vegetables and 20 tomato varieties.

Lighthouse Gardens-greenhouse grown annuals and perennials including herb and vegetable starts.

Mud Creek Farm-chemical/pesticide-free vegetables

Organic Matters Farm-Eggs from free-range hens, certified organic vegetables

Raindance Harvest-Sustainably grown transplants, mixed greens, and assorted vegetables.

Together these farms are assisting in the vision of a multi-farm CSA or Community Supported Agriculture model for the Good Food Collective. In a CSA, people buy into farms as shareholders an in return receive a share of the farms weekly harvest. This model enables the farms to receive support and money up fron,t and to benefit people with local and fresh produce (see the offerings of each farm above).

The commitment of Chris Hartman and Head Water Foods Inc. is to bring, “individual, social, economic, and ecological health to the Rochester community.”

I want to thank Chris for his commitment to bringing Rochester’s agricultural offerings to the surface, and to bringing attention to the incredible wealth that our local farms are injecting into our city. I ultimately believe that if we can continue to highlight the profound local and regional agriculture that exists around Rochester, we can become known as a world class agricultural destination.

The impact on our neighborhoods, our city, and our communities could be tremendous! Support our local farmers and support our city in becoming known for our agritourism.

On the Web:

The Good Food Collective

Edible Finger Lakes Article (Chris influence on the South Wedge Farmers Market)

The South Wedge Farmers Market

“The Food Less Traveled”-The South Wedge Farmers’ Market

I had the recent privilege of attending the South Wedge Farmers’ Market for the first time this season and found the market to be a wonderful place of dialogue and community. This market is a wonderful example of the organized efforts of the South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC), and reflects the commitment of the organization to build community throughout the neighborhood. [The market meets every Thursday from 4-7 pm at 100 Alexander St. (Boulder Coffee Parking Lot.)]

The market is officially run by the SWPC which serves one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city of Rochester. I am proud to call this my new neighborhood and just moved here this past May (more on that in another post perhaps).

The South Wedge Farmers’ Market has been an inspiration to many other markets in the area because of  its strong focus on community, commitment to local produce, and neighborhood identity. The market is now entering it’s 4th year anniversary.

The market has a very strong focus on very local produce and goods, and boasts the fact that everything at the market comes from no more than 100 miles away. The official motto of the marketplace is “the food less traveled.”

My attraction to this market comes in the utilization of the market as a “third place” as stated in my previous blog post “Farmers Markets as Place-making.” The greatest attribute of this market is that conversation is the main activity. This is stated in no way to undermine the fact that the produce and goods are as fresh and local as you can imagine, but instead speaks to the ability the market has to educate and create dialougue around healthy food, healthy people and community well-being.

"Conversation is the Main Activity"

As stated on the SWPC website, the South Wedge Farmers’ Market “educates and encourages healthy eating for long term health.” The educational experience with this market is like nothing else I have experienced in the area up to this point. The day I attended the market, Jill Stackpole of Bloomfield Honey was speaking on how to be a beekeeper and demonstrating how we get our honey.

Bloomfield Honey Observation Hive and Hive Smoker

Everything about this market was engaging, whether I was learning about organic baking methods from Small World Bakery, learning about Bloomfield honey and beekeeping, or learning about incredible wine varietals from Jerod and his family-run Leonard Oaks Estate Winery.

I had an incredible conversation with Chris Hartman from the Good Food Collective, who is also the founder and manager of the South Wedge Farmers’ Market, about the desire to move “good food” into the communities of Rochester. I will devote my next article to discussing this topic and his efforts.

Leonard Oaks Estate Winery Wine Tastings

This market had the ability to engage and educate, and as I looked around I genuinely felt that people were not only getting to experience this market as a “third place” and a place of community, but also getting to learn about the food and the incredible people and processes that had brought healthy and local food to them.

As this market continues to flourish, my hope is that the model demonstrated through SWPC will continue to spread into neighborhoods associations and planning committees across Rochester area neighborhoods. These markets need to be seen as a way to bring cultural vibrancy and community well-being to the people of our city.

On the Web:

The South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC)

The South Wedge Farmers Market

Facebook Page for The South Wedge Farmers Market

Small World Bakery

Leonard Oaks Estate Winery


Farmers Markets as Place-making

In an effort to continue my studies in the relationship of farmers markets and community, I have decided that I want to focus on the idea of our local farmers’ markets being agents in the creation of “place-making.”

Many of you are probably familiar with the book “The Great Good Place” by Ray Oldenburg, but for those of you that are not familiar, a brief summary is in order. Ray Oldenburg discusses challenges in the lack of community we experience here in the United States, and describes how many of us are searching for “third places,” …communities where we can gather  outside of our first place (home) and second place (work).

In Ray Oldenburg’s book, he identifies these “third places” as our local cafe’s, bookstores, bistros, pubs, and “the like,” but I believe our farmers markets can also be incorporated as “great, good, places.”

It is my belief that our local markets are now emerging as wonderful “third places” where we can not only shop for fresh and local goods, but also participate in culture and dialogue with community. In an effort to demonstrate this idea, I will be studying several local markets across the city here in Rochester, NY

Above: People stroll the farmers market at Washington Square Park in Rochester, NY

Do our local farmers’ markets meet Ray Oldenburg’s qualifications for a third place?

In Chapter 2, The Character of Third Places in “The Great Good Place” Oldenburg describes a third place as having the following 8 attributes (I have paraphrased the definition for each subcategory):

  • On Neutral Ground – Can all feel welcome and comfortable?
  • The Third Place Is a Leveler – Are differences between people eliminated and are all made equal?
  • Conversation Is the Main Activity – Is there engaging dialogue that is sustaining the third place? Is there dynamic association with one another?
  • Accessibility and Accommodation – Can one frequent the third place anytime and find assurance in acquaintance? Does a community life exist there?
  • The Regulars – Are the right people there to make the place feel alive? Do the regulars give the third place its character?
  • A Low Profile – Is the third place typically plain or unimposing? Is it an expected part of life that can be perceived as ordinary or routine?
  • The Mood is Playful – Do joy and acceptance reign over anxiety and alienation? Does the third place engagement and entertainment form association?
  • A Home Away from Home – Does the third place offer a congenial environment? Does it root us in a way that we can find belonging? Does it give us the feeling of being at ease or the “freedom to be?”

It is my belief that these attributes strongly relate to the local markets that I have participated in as a vendor or as a customer. As we look at the various markets across the city of Rochester, I believe these attributes will become clear as these markets maintain similarity as “third places,” and yet the relationships within each of these markets remain dynamically different from one another.

I look forward to introducing you to these markets through both the lens of being a vendor with Joe Bean Coffee Roasters and understanding the viewpoint from the agricultural community, and being a market participant who shops for my food and goods, and meets the providers and farmers who enable these  markets to exist.

If you are interested in purchasing The Great Good Place it is available for purchase by clicking below.

The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg

Thank you!

Plant. Water. Grow.

…and so begins my first blog entry, with many more to come. I am embarking on a mission to understand and learn what the agricultural presence in our region means to the city of Rochester, NY and beyond.

I am a Graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology who is initiating an independent study with Dr. James Myers to learn about the dynamic impact our local farmers markets create,  and how they “plant,” sustain (water), and “grow” into places of community that inspire new culture.

My belief is that our markets are becoming a new type of public square, where the benefits far exceed the amazing produce and locally-made artisan products, and extend to enriching culture, creating community, and encouraging dialogue. These markets are creating “place,” and theses places are bringing vibrancy to our barren city landscapes.

I have a deep desire to learn how these farmers markets are adding value to the lives of those here in Upstate New York, and my hope is to highlight the agricultural assets we have in this city in an effort to better inform the public of these places of food, life, the arts, and culture.

Follow me as I commit to study our exceptional farmers markets and the agricultural community this summer.

I hope you will find this blog both exciting and enlightening. I know that I am genuinely excited to bring all that I learn to you.

Thank You!

~Benjamin Woelk