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August 04, 2006


Stefanie Noble

You've nailed it. It's just not clear where anything is coming from at the Regional Market. Whenever I've purchased anything there, it's usually from the vendors that I also see at the Ithaca Market (Sacred Seed, for example).

I would love to see more stringent requirements put in place. And it's not like they don't have enough room to, say, place all the truly local, pesticide-free folks under one of the pavilions for easy locating. I would bet that if they started to focus on that more and made them easier to find, they would notice a definite trend in increased sales and more flocking to that area.

I know I would certainly be more willing to part with my money if I had more reassurance that I was actually buying local. The jumbly nature of things right now though means I'm not as willing to take the time to figure it all out.

I'm not completely against the wholesale produce folks either. No one's ever going to grow a pineapple up here and if it does save a trip, fine. But there needs to be a clearly delineation between who is doing what there.

jen maiser

As someone coming from California in the past few years, you must have been as stunned when first seeing this as I am when reading about it! I'm curious to hear more.


I'm so lucky to have 3 great mostly organic farmer's markets and one organic co-op within a 5 mile radius!


I have to raise my voice in favor of the regional market. Not as an organic food shopping experience, but as a great people watching opportunity. I see a diversity there I rarely see in Syracuse.

And the donuts. The donuts are a life altering experience.

Travis hance

Are the donuts that good?

Wendy's meat is grade A, and I appreciate her willingness to talk about obscure cuts and how to deal with them, but I find myself making only about 5 trips a year to the market, mostly to say hello to Wendy, and to buy apples for the store.

I love Sacred Seed and June Wood as well, but three farmers to choose from, with two being animal farmers, is just simply not good enough fpr me to give up a busy saturday at the coop.

Last year I did manage to score a peck of fresh quince, leading to much membrillo, potpourri, and a little apple/quice stuffed pork chops, as well, so, it can't be all bad...

kathy barry

Apologies in advance for what has become a long comment.

What is is about the market?
Its a market, the great equalizer of all syracuse, we all need food, we all buy food,and by the size of the market many of us love fresh food.I have been a avid supporter of farmers market for years.
I mean I love farmers markets! When we go on vacation, it will always include a trip to the local farmers market,and food co-op. They Syracuse market is colorful, active and overflowing with promise. Listen to conversations around you..
Overheard yesterday- a child asking a parent if they could try nectarines, another couple debating the value of SacredSeeds higher priced greens, and a farmer explaining how to cook fava beans to a woman who remembered seeing them on the food channel.

Yes our market is large, and overwhelming at times. You do have to be commited to finding the organic farms.
Well I am!
A few years ago having chem free food meant having a relatonship with a few older sicilian gentleman that were growing vegetables the old fashioned way. Amazing tomatoes garlic favas eggplants peppers and more in their gardens, and bringing the supplus to market. Beautiful stuff! I learned to cook greens, make caponata, and filled my kitchen with the most amazing garlic braids. Over the years my favorite farmers seemed to return less and less. What would we do for food?

Then we started venturing to Ithaca for the market there. Oh joy! I love that market. Beautiful piles of organic produce everywhere. Delicious cheeses, and crusty breads, its was so easy! The croissants from Just Desserts are worth the drive my huband Brian says.
We first met Sacred seed there. We fell in love with the abundance of organics. We felt a little guily about going so far, but really wanted organic produce. Then Ananda from Sacred Seed they started coming to syracuse. We returned too. Over the years we've seen several organic farmers sell here on occasion, deal with people scoffing at prices, get moved around etc. Its a tough market for organic farmers, so we're back at this market, to support them and encourage them to stick around.

Stones Throw, Sacred seed, Wake Robin, Salveres, plus Ron and Lillian, the garlic growers all fill our baskets each week.Some beatiful, flowers from Susan at Pods and Poppies completes our organic bounty.
As well as a bottle of organic wine from John Sustare at pheasant ridge.

In between I might buy an occasional non organic item. But I always buy from the small farmers, those who are actually growing the food. Its actually quite easy to spot the resale vendors. Those are the folks coming to market at 4am, buying produce and reselling it. The dole bananas, the strawberries etc. Just knowing whats in season can help in identifying whose produce is local.
Also talk to them, build a relationship. Learn about the food they are selling you. I learned to make the best cherry pies because I asked a farmer at the market which type were the best for pie. He told this great story of the pies his wife makes him to take when he goes bear hunting. I love that story! And let me tell you he was right, My cherry pies are much better, I was using the wrong kind.

I like to know who is touching the food that feeds my family and friends. I am a busy person , but this Sat morning thing is such an important ritual for us, its almost like church. I feel very disoriented for the week when I don't do it. It doesn't take that long to develop realtionships with farmer & vendors, and you can get around the market in a reasonable amont of time, it does not have to be an event.

Here's the part of the adventure you don't get fom the Ithaca market.
Returning to our home in the university we wind throught the North Side, stopping by Lombardis,where they always know the kind of cheeses we like and offer new ones to sample.Fresh pasta for the pesto I'll be making,as well as some carnoroli rice for risotto are the main reasons for this stop. Hopping over to Pascals for coffee and a scone, we continue on to Samirs for olive oil, bulgarian feta, and lavosh. Here Gabi has been known to offer a cup of his special coffee, as he questions whether or not I really want a certain type of oil, too strong for you. Generally he is impressed that we want the good tasting stuff.

A stop at the coop to finish our trip, hopefully the fish is in and the Patisierre bread. Generally a great conversation with Kris or Travis over the mornings bounty. And they share whats new in the store. By this point Brian is on his third cup of coffee, sharing bio diesel adventures and hauling our final bags to the car. Oh, yeah, did I mention we do this whole trip on biodiesel he makes from used vegetable grease from the Mission? Occasionally we need to stop there to pick up grease (in between pascals and samirs!)

We love this Saturday morning trip, we make plans for the week as we drive around, listen to the great music, and turn an errand into a pleasant hour or two. We don't stop every place everyweek, but always the Market and the Co-op.

We do occasionally go to the Ithaca Market still, but we are lately more than ever committed to supporting our local organic farmers. It is hard for them. Take the time, seek them out, tell your friends they are there. Encourage them to return.
I have found that while they may move around, they are often in the same general vicinity,week after week.

Alot more people are supporting them too, which I find encouraging. Folks are getting it. In the past five, I'd say even three, years I have seen the presence of organics improve dramatically at the regional market.Its not Ithaca, but it has its own virtures. Lets support it, and nurture it and help it grow!
We have been doing this for 20 years and have been seeing a change. I see more people every week seeking out organics for a variety of reason- they want better food for their children, they have health issues they are trying to address or they are just learning its better overall.
I also know several people who have ideas floating around about how to organize the organics at the Regional Market, but we are all already busy with limited time. Maybe if we worked together we could make it happen. I think to assume the farmers could take on organizing such a project would be too much, they are already overworked. But I have spoke with each of them, and they would all love the idea of being together in one spot. I encourage everyone to continue to support organics at the Regional Market. Local farmers too. Local organic- the best. And next time you hear someone scoffing about the price-let them know why its worth it! And tell them a favorite recipe or preparation. I have some people are just unsure because they don't know the food. We can all learn from each other, and food is agreat commonground.

Travis, the donuts are ok, better on a cool fall day. And they must be hot. Also if you are familiar with the Homer Price stories and his donut machine,it makes the donuts even better.
But not as good as the croissants


Between the crowds, confusion, and lack of organic/sustainable vendors, going to the Regional Market is just not worth the expensive drive. We can do better with the farm stands that pop up this time of year. Also, it's closer for us to drive over to Wendy's farm to get her products.

Stefanie Noble

Great comment Kathy! You illustrate exactly how great Syracuse can be, if you take the time to look. I love Lombardi's... and I also had a transcendent donut experience at the Regional Market a few years ago.

I know that I would definitely get involved if we all came together to figure out how to help out local farmers more. This is a great example of an issue where we have complaints, but it's also a springboard for more light to be shed on the issue.


In my case, the question is "Is it worth twelve bucks worth of gas to wade through the same produce they have at Wegmans to find the one or two LOCAL produce vendors?" and the answer is a resounding "No".

If the local produce was grouped and/or labeled as such and there were a few more local vendors....maybe. Maybe I would bother to work the Market into my weekly grocery trip. 'Til then, I'll shop local stands and make the 10 minute drive over to Wendy Gornick's.

Heck it would even be a major improvement if they got rid of the "junk" vendors for the day.


Wow! What wonderfully thoughtful comments--thanks for sharing your thoughts. There are some issues involved here--I'll need to actually write them up in another post, I think. But briefly, I see issues of organization at the market--it really wouldn't be that difficult to group the sustainable/organic farmers together or give them an easily identified marker or flag. I don't think the inability of finding them is the sole reason to avoid the market--but as one who is in the business of welcoming newcomers, the Regional Market could go a long way toward making it easier for people to navigate the market.

Another issue is the "feel" of the market. I'm very sensitive to the accusations of "elitism" that have been put upon the Ferry Plaza Market in San Francisco, for example--it is rather expensive for some items. The Regional Market is really a peoples market--a very egalitarian place--which is why, I suspect, it gathers the multiplicity of languages, races, and classes that it does. Like Kathy Barry and Art-Sweet, I love the diversity of the market for that. The question is, wouldn't it be possible given its size to make it both egalitarian and attractive to the organic foodie?

Finally, a word to Kathy--I think you are spot on about what makes Syracuse a wonderful place for food. I love your Saturday ritual and think it would make for an excellent "food tour" of our area. I frequent the places you mention but not usually all on Saturday morning--I will give your way a try.

In fact, as I contemplated the follow up post on this topic I noted that you covered some of the things I wanted to say. You're right, I'm not aware of this kind of food divesity in Ithaca and that does make our area special-thank you for raising that up in a very eloquent way.

Stephanie, I think you, too, are right. Might we be able to effect some positive change somehow? I know the farmers will appreciate us thinking about it. But if it could lead to positive action that would be great.


Good Stuff



Great post Jennifer and great comments too. I own Salvere Farm over here south of Marcellus in Marietta. After speaking with Jennifer the other day it really got me thinking again. I had been planning on expanding my CSA next year and not returning to the market for all the reasons cited above...mostly though because I have not been able to get a permanent spot. However, I think I would miss the market experience. Many people each week do search me out and thank you, thank you, thank you. In fact some of those people tell me they have been up and down the whole market three times before finally finding me. So...I know that being moved around definitely limits the amount of business I do. I almost always sell out of what I bring but on the days where I am moved to a different shed I always see a drop in business. I believe the market has been approached about a local shed but they prefer to mix everyone together. The reason you do not see more local farmers at the Regional Market is because they have not been able to get a permanent spot and have to compete with retailers who buy in cheap produce to resell.
A number of people around Syracuse would prefer an alternative market which only included local farmers and crafters akin to the Ithaca market. I am currently working with a variety of people in the area to see if this is feasible. If you would like to get involved or just have ideas on where, when, etc. send me an email. Thanks for supporting local farmers. You are the people who make all the work worth it.


I grew up here in Syracuse and went to college for four years in Ithaca. I absolutely fell in love with the Ithaca Farmers Market - it was a wonderful weekend ritual to go there, see friends, buy wonderful organic local produce, listen to the musicians, and get something tasty to eat for lunch. The Syracuse Regional Market is another beast altogether. I've ventured out there a few times this summer now that I've returned to Syracuse, and I always end up frustrated and dissappointed. I often can only find one organic stand, and they're usually selling the same things we have coming out of our plot at Morningside Garden. (Maybe I'm ignorant, but how hard is it to do organic potatoes? Onions?) And you're surrounded by highways and vehicles and it's generally not a pleasant experience at all.

If the Regional Market organizers were to place all the organic and local vendors in the same area, I'd be much more willing to go back... although the paucity of such venders is also frustrating. How do we tell the management what we want?

There was also meant to be a farmers' market in Lexington Park on tuesdays or thursdays this summer, and to our great dissappointment, we never saw any sign of it.

Has anyone thought about approaching whoever owns the building at Inner Harbor as a possible alternative farmers' market location?

Brian Luton

This is going to be long...I apologize.

This is an interesting thread for so many reasons. It has drawn quite a diverse array of comments and I find myself interpreting each for all that they are worth. As I roll them around in my head while going about my business I find myself engaged in a hundred hypothetical conversations building into or bridging off of the thoughts and beliefs of those that have posted.

And yet...

As an individual, as a farmer, as a consumer, as a Regional Market Vendor its sort of ironic that the response that comes to all of this, after all of that, has nothing to do with any of those "conversations" but rather is simply an observation that is ellicited by these general ruminations.

And so....

Its important to remember that the CNY Regional Market(or any market for that matter) doesn't create its culture or create its regional food-shed it is merely a reflection of it.

I'd add that I feel(for better or worse) that the CNY Regional Market is an apt reflection of the culture and the food-shed that predominates in this area.

Its apt then that "organic/sustainable" is but a niche in a BIG market. Its apt then that "local conventional" is a major seasonal sector. And its apt that the "wholesaler" is an everpresent lynchpin in the present food supply system. These are the realities of our marketplace.

That said I don't think that "niches" grow by isolation and seperatism. That type of thinking relegates "niches" to stay "niches" and propogates the potential for elitism.

As a sustainable local grower I(and the rest of the "team") deal with the realities of the "culture" of the CNY Market every Saturday morning. That means having the honor and previlege of "your" patronage.

That also means weathering the curses and bearing the glares of passerbys that think your prices are ridiculous and "organic don't mean nothin'".

But it also means an opportunity every week to speak with someone about our produce and how we farm and why we farm this way. And it means the opportunity to cultivate interest in and support for sustainable local farms. It means selling someone their first heirloom tomato and watching their eyes light up the next Saturday when they realize you've "got those ugly tomatoes again!" It means little kids learning that carrots aren't always orange and later learning to love carrots. It means providing wholesome, nutritious and interesting food for both the body and soul to people "who already get it" and people "who are just discovering it."

And thats pretty cool...

The consumer sculpts the market. If you want sustainable local growers and artisans at the CNY Regional Market you need to support those that do go there. You need to tell your friends. You need to be patient with parking and take an extra 10 minutes to walk the market looking for what you want rather than drive an hour to Ithaca.

We need to understand that the CNY Regional Market is the expression of our CNY food and farm culture. And that culture can change.

Its important to realize that the CNY Regional Market is part of the NYS Market Authority and as the government dictates they can't "regulate free-trade".

The market managers don't have the power to exclude wholesalers. They don't have the power to promote local and/or local sustainable growers. It is really up to the vendors and the patrons to drive the market and create its culture.

What the market authority does have the power to do is tap into state and federal programs to build the incredible infrastructure that is the CNY Regional Market. And in doing so create a space that THOUSANDS of people go to every weekend!

Kudos to Ben Vitale and others for doing so…they've surely been a link in helping to preserve the viability of many conventional local farms. They've provided a direct market for local farms. And at the same time they've supported an infrastructure for local food dispersion.(the wholesale row all the way to the South)

Many of the same wholesalers that set up side by side with local growers are purchasing from local growers during the wee hours of most mornings. These small and mid-size wholesalers are often family run operations in and of themselves (Guinta, Russo, etc.) And they are trying to keep their heads above water in an increasingly globalized, centralized, Walmart-ified food system. Sure these wholesalers bring out of state produce to the CNY Regional Market and sure they are part of the problem of price depression at the CNY Regional Market, but for many local and NYS growers the continued success of these types of wholesalers is integral to the ultimate “sustainability” of agriculture in NYS.

Not every farm is situated in such fashion that they can direct market all of their goods and most small and mid-sized NYS farms can't access the global marketplace. They need regional wholesalers such as those that we see dotted across the CNY Market and in the wholesale row. Together it’s the union of local farms with direct market opportunities and local distribution and processing channels that support our regional food shed. Until the “niche” becomes the “norm”(which is perhaps an oxymoron?!) our local food shed is a hugely important piece of the sustainability puzzle.

As a sustainable/organic grower at the CNY Regional Market we are but a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. But I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This is THE CNY REGIONAL MARKET. This is where I live, and the food-shed I live in....and what better more accessible venue is there by which to bring our local-sustainable-organic ethic to the light of day.

Again thanks to everyone that comes out...

food is life.

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