Hungry for local food in Schenectady
Schenectady’s Greenmarket has been a huge success since it started in 2008, drawing thousands of people downtown each Sunday. While this shows there was a real demand for fresh, locally produced food, it also had a lot to do with the seed work done by the volunteer organizers, who went so far as to visit those first participating farmers to make sure they were the right fit.
And the organizers stayed involved, and on top of things, as the Greenmarket grew. The same hard work and persistence will be required if two other ventures, both badly needed in Schenectady, are to succeed.
One is the Bellevue Farmers Market, which, after a delay because of bad weather, is set to open Thursday at 2126 Broadway. Actually, reopen. This is the second year for the market, but the first under the sponsorship of the neighborhood organization Bellevue Preservation Inc. Last year, at the organization’s urging, the Schenectady Greenmarket sponsored a satellite market in Bellevue with a $7,000 state grant. It started slowly, but wound up drawing 300-400 people each Thursday.
In February, though, the Greenmarket leaders said they wouldn’t be doing the market this year, so the Bellevue Preservation Inc. had to take over or see it die. So far, with advice from the Greenmarket people, they seem to be doing things right, lining up vendors and winning approval for state and federal programs that will make it easier for low-income people to shop at the market. They even applied for and were awarded that same $7,000 state grant, but they will get it only at the end of the season if they can show they met certain criteria.
The other effort is a co-op that would sell local, natural, bulk and fair trade foods, similar to the Honest Weight Co-Op in Albany. It would be likely be located in the old Grossman’s building on Erie Boulevard, convenient for shoppers from Union College, Schenectady County Community College, downtown and the Stockade.
First proposed in 2012, with the prospect of a 2013 opening, the target date is now July 2014. The delay is frustrating for those eager to have such a place to shop, but it seems to be because the project’s initiator, Katherine Wolfram of Niskayuna, has been doing her homework. There are real signs of progress now, though, and the hope is that around this time next year, Schenectady will have an excellent food co-op — one that will last.