Growing Our Farmers’ Market

By Patricia Tyrell

The Franklin Farmers’ Market (FFM) is sponsored by the volunteer community organization Franklin Local, Ltd., and by the Greater Franklin Chamber of Commerce. It was started and developed by the vision and dedication of Ellen Curtis, market manager for its first eleven years. As a testament to Franklin Local’s mission of sustainable living and community building, the market has become a Sunday staple for people to shop locally, to gather and talk, or maybe just to enjoy a Fokish cardamom twist and coffee while listening to the music.

The Franklin Farmers’ Market in May, 2019

The FFM’s thirteenth season hosted a number of familiar vendors and a couple of new faces, as well as featuring weekly performances by local and area musicians. Fortunate in the generosity of our area’s artists, the market has been graced with the donation of a beautiful market poster for each of the last eleven seasons. This year’s poster was created by Dee Singer.

Next to the stunning poster, “Music at the Market” certainly stole the show in 2019. Music has been a part of the market for a while now, with local musicians John O’Connor and Jason Starr volunteering their talents to entertain market patrons. In 2018, a few new artists were added, including Rickety Fence, Local Seisiun and Bill Steely’s Skinny Cow Singer/Songwriter Workshop.

Seeking to further expand the music program and its audience, but most especially, to pay the musicians for their skills, Franklin Local secured funding from the A. Lindsay & Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, the Delaware County Department of Economic Development, and the NYS Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered by the Roxbury Arts Group.

Through these efforts, each market Sunday featured one of an eclectic mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz, classic rock, traditional Irish, and original blends. Music at the Market captured the ears and hearts of locals and visitors alike, an appreciation documented by weekly surveys taken by market visitors.

The survey also expressed the general disappointment that there was no longer a hot food vendor. For years, beef or veggie gyros, and chicken speedies were cooked to order every Sunday. In the absence of this long-time favorite, occasional fundraising efforts featuring grilled food and sno-cones were made on behalf of an area church for the benefit of youth to attend a leadership conference.

But at a farmers’ market, there is always plenty to eat, be it freshly baked or freshly picked produce. John the Baker, featuring freshly baked sweet breads, cakes, scones, and Italian cookies, was able to significantly surpass last year’s fundraising efforts for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Tunnels for Towers program which benefits NYC firefighters, raising over $2,000.

Stepping outside the meat-locker, Meg Shivers of Empire Angus helped to round out a season of grilling for a cause, featuring her own family farm-ground angus beef. A total of $100 was generously donated to the Franklin Community Education Foundation. The Foundation also debuted its likely-to-become-famous lemonade in the refreshment tent, briefly adding variety beyond the usual coffee, herbal tea, and water available for sale.

Special activities, especially for children, were also available throughout the market season. Free rock painting again coincided with the annual Stagecoach Run Art Festival. Renowned artist Joseph Kurhajec provided the chance to hand-craft clay turtles. Bonnie Laugen of IzzaBon Jewelry offered weekly bracelet-making for a donation. Beyond music and activities, a continued effort was made, via participation in the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, to ensure that local, healthy food is available to any and all, regardless of income.

Attempts were also made to become a SNAP certified market. Unfortunately, the SNAP program did not get off the ground this year, but is expected to be in place for next season. Thankfully, the folks at East Brook Farm cracked the hard SNAP-nut and have enabled their own SNAP EBT capabilities at their market locations, farm store and CSA.

Looking forward to 2020, market-goers can expect the continued presence of their favorite vendors plus a few new ones. Hot food will be consistently available, along with expanded beverage variety, new and favorite musical artists, and more activities to enjoy each and every week.

Following the new tradition, market “leftovers” (AKA folks in the habit of convening for social purposes on Sunday mornings) will continue to gather by shifting their meetings to The Tulip and the Rose Cafe on Sundays at 11am.

A special thanks to all the volunteers who help out weekly at the market or who work behind the scenes, without whom there would be no market, no music, and no leftovers.