Area farmers, craft makers, and volunteers met to form an association Wednesday night at a meeting held at City Hall. Community and Economic Director Rob von Hasseln was the “acting chair” of the meeting and said that helping to form a group that is independent of the city has been a goal of his since the farmer’s market effort began last year. Von Hasseln said that approximately 30 people have signed up so far to either volunteer to help or sell their goods.
Von Hasseln said that when he was approached by volunteers looking to start a farmer’s market early last year, he was supportive of the idea and agreed to provide administrative support through his department until an independent legal organization could be formed in which members would make their own decisions on policies, rules and operations.
“Well, it didn’t happen that way,” said von Hasseln. “For one reason or another, the organization was never formed. And so it ended up being that a lot of work fell upon the shoulders of not only my department, which is a one person department, but on the gracious volunteers who assisted, getting out there every day, putting up the barricades, ordering the porta-johns, getting the signs, telling the vendors where to set up. “
“That was OK to get us through the first season, but it’s not a plan for the future,” said von Hasseln.
A mix of approximately 15 volunteers and vendors who participated in last year’s market attended the meeting and voted on several initial issues.
The members who were present voted to begin their operations as a part of the city’s annual Spring Fling event held on Main Street and Market Street on May 16, 2015. They agreed to apply for membership with the Farmers Market Federation of New York State and the Mohawk Valley Farmer’s Market Managers Alliance. They also agreed to apply with NY State to take food benefit credits and waive any membership fees for charter members in the first year.
Von Hasseln also presented members with a proposed constitution that will be voted on at their next scheduled meeting on February 25, 2015. According to the document, members will elect a board of directors including a chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer, and an “at-large” director to handle special projects. The proposed document also establishes several standing committees and limits the percentage of non-food vendors to 20%.
Paul Marshall, who offered grass-fed beef and other produce at last years market, said after the meeting he plans to return this year. However, he hopes the new association will choose a different location rather than the Walter Elwood Museum, where the event was held last year, in order to be more accessible to the public.
Jennifer Greco, who makes handcrafted tie dye clothing with her daughter, said she was very successful at last year’s market. She said that her business helps fund her nursing school education and that she had a “very positive experience” with the event and plans to return.
Anthony Leggiero, who sold Thai food such as spring rolls, bubble tea and pad thai last year, said he was also on-board with the new association.
During the meeting, Leggiero asked the association not to “shut out” Ben Wallach, who was also involved with the market effort last year.
“Because [Wallach] from Schenectady is bringing in business from that area,” said Leggiero.
Both von Hasseln and volunteer Sheri Crouse said that Wallach was welcome to be part of the new association.
Wallach, who is the Marketing Director at The Niskayuna Co-op, said on Tuesday that he has no plans to join the new organization, and said that he sees no problem with two markets in the city. Wallach announced yesterday that the Amsterdam Saturday Farmers/Crafters Market will be held at the Walter Elwood Museum in June.
Ann Peconie, director of the Walter Elwood Museum, said that the museum enthusiastically supports the idea of a farmers market in Amsterdam, and that cooperation with various community groups is part of their overall vision. Peconie said that Wallach’s effort received support from the museum’s board but that they are not committed to work with any one group exclusively.