Rochester Public Market: You’re Number One!

Way to go Rochester! One of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country, Rochester Public Market was voted America’s Favorite Farmers Market in the large market category during our summer-long contest. They received a total of 5,400 votes. Located south of Lake Ontario in the western New York city of Rochester, known for its long, snowy winters, the Rochester Public Market is open year-round. It’s a gathering place for the community in all seasons.

American Farmland Trust will visit the Rochester Public Market and present the award and prizes at a celebration on Thursday, October 7th at 10:00 am. Rochester’s Mayor Robert Duffy, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor on the ticket with gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, will speak on the importance of agriculture and farmers markets to the New York state economy.

Rochester Public Market: Past

Agriculture is an economic engine in New York state. Farms sold $4.7 billion in agricultural products last year, and in 2008 New York farms spent $2.4 billion on goods such as feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel, electricity, machinery and other supplies. The state is in the top 10 in the country in the production of 22 different fruits, vegetables and dairy products—including apples, cherries, pears, grapes, strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions, pumpkins, snap beans, squash, sweet corn, maple syrup and milk. New York farms serve as the foundation for the state’s $23 billion farm and food industry.

The Rochester Public Market got its start in 1827 along the banks of the Genesee River in what is now downtown Rochester. In 1905, the market moved to its current location and has never stopped growing. Today the Rochester Public Market operates year-round and has 200 vendors selling everything from produce to housewares. During the height of the season, as many as 40,000 people a week shop at the market. A University of Rochester study found 29 different languages being spoken by shoppers at the market on a single Saturday morning.

Rochester Public Market: Present

The market is operated by the city of Rochester and is self-supporting through vendors’ fees and other market revenue. Because of the market’s success, Rochester’s Market District has been the focus of development, attracting over $60 million in public and private investment.

Between January and August 2010, over $200,000 worth of fresh produce was purchased at the Rochester Public Market with EBT tokens provided to Food Stamp (SNAP) customers. Fifty percent of these customers report eating more fruits and vegetables because of the token program offered at the market.

At least 70 market vendors are local farmers selling produce grown on their farms directly to consumers. Some farm families have been selling at the Rochester Public Market for four generations. Locally grown produce that can be found at the market on a fall day includes potatoes, onions, leeks, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, greens, winter squash, and fruit such as apples, pears and grapes. Also available are meats, eggs, dairy products, and baked goods along with items such as syrup, wine, honey and preserves.

The market is visited by 3,500-plus school children on field trips each year to learn about food, and countless parents take advantage of the market as well, making it a family tradition. “On our first visit to the Rochester Public Market one of my kids said, ‘I didn’t know lettuce grew in a ball!’” shared one voter in America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. “He was used to the pre-washed bagged lettuce at the grocery store. I now bring my sons every Saturday. They pick out their own fruits and vegetables which I have no problem getting them to eat.”

Other New York markets to place in the state’s top five in the 2010 America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest include:

About the Author: Diane Held is Senior New York Field Manager at American Farmland Trust.

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