Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sustainable Saurday - The Sound of Silence

Yesterday and today, I pondered exactly what makes one farmers market succeed, and another, nearby one, fail.

Today, we had the Saturday farmers market at Otsiningo Park in Binghamton, New York. There is ample parking, a setting in a beautiful park next to playgrounds and picnic pavilions, level ground (important for the elderly) - everything except good mass transit.

The people came out, for local:

Kale and chard;


Strawberries (close to the end of the season) and cherries (sold out just as I got to the booth - 45 minutes after the market opened!).  There were also plants, cheese, baked goods, jellies, milk, beef, pork, chcken, and a bakery booth selling breakfast items.

Meanwhile, yesterday, at the downtown Binghamton farmers market, at lunchtime, there were...

...not too many people.  (My apologies to this long time vendor for using her booth to symbolize emptiness. Her baked goods are excellent - and, in the past, I've seen her selling and selling.)

You could say, perhaps, that I hit the market at a bad time.  But I have worked in downtown Binghamton for years, and I've been visiting the market for years, at about the same time each Friday-my lunchtime, and when office workers visit the market.  At lunch, there is also live music during the summer (that's the tent you see below, to the left.)  So, I've seen it in summer, in fall, right before holidays, and over the years.
Downtown Binghamton has so much potential
In the past, I've expressed fears of the market's demise.   This year, that fear (despite several new venders and a management that cares - I know, because I have spoken to the management) is stronger than ever.   I fear that, if things don't turn around soon, a couple of the new vendors may leave - just as the market has made a commitment to use only local vendors.

I so hope that someone local will comment and tell me I'm wrong - that perhaps the hours of busyness have shifted, and business is still good.  Why?

Downtown Binghamton (population about 47,000) NEEDS a market  - nearby neighborhoods are food deserts, it has a lot of low income people living in the area, it has OK mass transit (most bus lines originate in downtown Binghamton, so if you use mass transit, it is easy to visit) but parking is terrible.  Still, lack of parking doesn't keep other downtown markets from succeeding.

Last year, some of my readers made excellent suggestions as to what Binghamton can do to jump start its downtown market, so it can be as successful as the one in Otsiningo Park.

I plan to blog more about this in the coming months, because I do care.

Does your community have a downtown farmers market that succeeds?  If so, does it do anything special?


  1. you should show your blog to someone in city government..maybe the market can handle one event....

  2. Hi Alana! I find myself wondering if there's any advertising for this market. Are there signs up? Is there an ad in the paper? Is there a facebook page that is consistently updated? Do people know that this market is there?

  3. I wonder how you may leverage the power of social media to get more people out to the markets? Maybe a simple CraigsList posting or posting to a Facebook page local to the Binghamton neighbor could make a profound difference. A lot of people may simply be unaware when these market events take place.

    To give you an example, we hold a community event every year, free to the public. The guy in charge marketed the heck out it, such that we welcomed 850 guests from all over the area (2 to 3 hour drive). Last year, we saw 600 and the year prior 400. He basically advertised to every FB page local to our area and that made a huge difference. As a result, we toned down on the amount of printed media.

  4. Marketing is definitely important when growing the farmers markets. Some in Utah do really well and some not so well. Once good marketing starts, word of mouth goes quickly! Kim

  5. I can't help with your problem. But I love the photos of the produce on sale. Especially the curly kale. Love it. My husband's favorite dark leafy vegetable is Cavolo Nero. Looks like curly kale but darker.

  6. Hey Alana!
    I really enjoy reading your 'local' blog.
    I was thinking the same as AmyG. A Facebook/ Twitter page might really help promote it.


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