I'm still in awe at discovering this nugget of history: the great Union Square Greenmarket in NYC is indebted to Syracuse. It's true. I read it in The New York Times. No, really, it is true. Actually I read it first it David Kamp's Book, The United States of Arugula:
Recognizing the error of their ways in the seventies, Syracuse's civic leaders took the radical step in 1972 of closing off a city block to traffic once a week to make way for a European-style-open-air market in which farmers could sell their wares directly to consumers...This was the scenario that motivated [Barry] Benepe, who was so inspired by Hess' report, he says, that "We originally modeled Greenmarket on Syracuse."
John Hess, then food writer at The New York Times, wrote his piece in October of 1973:
Food lovers should raise a fork today in salute to the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. Last spring, it got the city to turn a street over to farmers every Tuesday and presto! the village fair was resurrected.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and flowers, cheeses and home baked goods and handcrafts drew even suburbanites from their dreary shopping centers.
That Syracuse was the inspiration for what has to be one of the most successful regional farmers' markets in the country just awes me. And, to be honest, it frustrates me. I watched Union Square evolve from drug den to foodie heaven and now I wonder why our own market hasn't inspired the same downtown renaissance.
I'm also frustrated because some of the farmers that make the Union Square market so great are from Central New York but don't come to our market--it isn't as worth it I suppose. And I also know that what helped get Union Square going was a young Danny Meyer who began shopping there for the ingredients that turned into amazing meals at his Union Square Cafe. His staff still shops there. I'd love to poll our local Armory Square restaurants to see if any regularly source ingredients from our Regional Market on Tuesdays or Saturdays.
I'm glad for New York City--I shop the Union Square Greenmarket every chance I can. But I wonder when Syracuse will stop being known for its exports and get folks looking at our city once again for the dynamic things that are here.
I mentioned in my reply to a comment on the Market Saturation post that I'd open up one of the businesses I listed if I had an investor. I was only half kidding. The potential here is unreal.