Last year I blogged about the possible decline and fall of the Binghamton, New York downtown farmer's market.
Venders were leaving. And, not only vendors were leaving. Binghamton, a city in upstate New York of around 47,000, once had nearly 80,000 residents. Hard times had struck some years ago with the decline of major employers such as IBM (which started in Binghamton) and Endicott-Johnson. Ten years ago, even five years ago, many buildings in downtown Binghamton were vacant.
Now, Binghamton (including the downtown) is in the midst of reinventing itself. But sometimes, it seems like a journey of 1000 miles, which has not gotten that far yet.
I've always maintained a strong local downtown farmer's market (with emphasis on "local" - we do have local farmers here) can be a key to the health of a community. I've seen it first hand. I point to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Ithaca, New York. Asheville, North Carolina. Charleston South Carolina. The farmer's market on Union Square in New York City. (I note here that, for some of these communities, the downtown markets are not their biggest. But all of them are vibrant.)
A neighborhood not that far from downtown Binghamton, New York is a food desert. Many years ago, I lived in that area (the North Side of Binghamton), before it became a desert. So this is a subject close to my heart.
Last year, I had spoken to a person newly associated with the downtown Binghamton market about my concerns. There was a vendor who obviously was not selling his own produce - plums in June, here, are just not local. Yet, he seemed to dominate the market.
Yesterday, I returned to the downtown Binghamton farmer's market for its second session of the year and saw some major changes-all good. I spoke to a favorite vendor and got the scoop.
The vendor who was obviously selling non local produce is no longer there. He was caught, I was told, buying produce from a local wholesaler, taking off the stickers you find on commercial produce, and selling it at market.
VINES,"Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments" will be concentrating their efforts on the downtown market this year. They are dedicated to eliminating the food deserts within Binghamton by use of urban farms, community gardens accessible to the community and other improvements. LOCAL!
Closer to the Heart, who sells only their own produce. (why this picture won't permit itself to be rotated, I have no idea). I've bought from them many times at the Otsiningo Park Farmers Market so know they are LOCAL!
Sunny Hill Farms. My friend has bought their honey for years. Another friend loves their rhubarb. LOCAL!
I couldn't get a good angle for a shot, but a vendor that has been to the market for years, Full Quiver Farm, is back. I've purchased their breads. LOCAL!
And, finally, a new vendor, Fojo Beans. I hope they can make it at market, because the beans, while high quality, are pricey for the Binghamton market, I fear. (I hope I'm wrong). Local coffee roaster!
It's a small start. But perhaps, a single step in that 1000 mile journey.
Tomorrow - Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. And this coming week, a mix of flowers and autism. I hope you enjoy what I have planned for you.