Thriving Farmers' Market Branches Out

Cooperstown Farmers' MarketThe Cooperstown Farmers' Market is a rich source of locally-produced foods and crafts and a fun spot for running into friends and neighbors. It's also a vital economic engine.

Many of the farmers at the market say that they wouldn't have been able to grow as steadily as they have if they hadn't had an outlet like this," says Lyn Weir, manager of the Cooperstown Farmers' Market at Otsego 2000, a nonprofit devoted to enhancing the quality of life in Otsego County.

So successful has the year-round indoor market grown that there's not enough space for all the vendors who want to sell there. And when Weir took the part-time manager's job a few years back, she found that the nuts and bolts of running the thriving enterprise kept her so busy, she had little time to focus on making the market even better.

Thanks to a $12,680 grant from the Community Foundation, Weir has been managing the market full time since July 2011. The extended hours have provided time to create a strategic plan and pursue some exciting opportunities.

One new venture will take the Cooperstown Farmers' Market on line, allowing customers to shop for local produce whenever they like — not just when the market is open — and then pick up their orders once a week. The website will help farmers sell more product than they can bring to their stalls and also will accommodate vendors who can't get space in the physical market.

Weir also hopes to offer pasteurization to farmers who want to sell bottled milk, and to establish a mobile Farmers' Market to sell produce at community festivals.

Last year was a busy one for the Farmers' Market. For the first time, vendors were able to take payments via electronic benefits transfer (EBT). "That's been on my list for three years," Weir says. Special events in 2011 included a festival in June to celebrate the market's 20th anniversary — a celebration that drew 1,500 people — and the annual Zany Zucchini Festival in August.

The Cooperstown Farmers' Market already serves as a social hub where shoppers like to pause to chat over coffee and fresh baked goods, Weir says. With more innovations in the works, the scene is likely to grow even livelier. "The more activities we have, the more attention we attract, the more people come, and the more they enjoy the market."

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