The 2nd Season for South Wedge Market

Vicki and Chris Hartman returned to Rochester from the Hudson Valley in fall 2003, expecting their first child, wanting to reconnect with their roots. They’d spent their college and post-college years working on farms, immersing themselves in local food and a sustainable lifestyle. Once they settled in Rochester’s eclectic SouthWedge neighborhood, they struggled to live those ideals in an urban environment, even one with a long established and thriving public market. Their plan for a different kind of market— neighborhood-based, producer-only—came in February 2007, after months of informal “what if?” conversations. By May, the SouthWedge Farmers’ Market was open for business, Thursday evenings in the narrow parking lot behind a neighborhood coffeehouse. The buzz started immediately. Everyone, it seemed, had heard about the market, seen an article in the local press, read about it on some urban acolyte’s blog. Local was its mantra, but the market quickly became known as the place to buy organic, sustainable produce, and also humanely sourced, organic and grass-fed meat and eggs. Shoppers could buy recycled indie art, bond over progressive causes and watch their kids groove to bluegrass bands. Farmers, many initially skeptical that something so small and urban could be worth their time, now see the SouthWedge market as a magnet for knowledgeable consumers willing to pay a premium for food with a local, traceable past. Growers like Raindance Harvest ofWebster and Circle B Organic Farm of Lyons earned a fast following. But meat purveyors, including Honeyhill Farm of Livonia and Sweet Grass Meats of Naples, did especially well. Fred Forsburg, who runs Honeyhill Farm and sits on the market’s advisory committee, was so successful last season that he’s expanding his tomato, garlic and poultry production as well as adding a grass-fed beef operation. “The response from the farmers was the most satisfying,” Vicki says. “They’re so much, obviously, of the reason we’re there. They hold the risk. They have to leave their farms for half the day and spend money preparing. But it worked out well for all of them on some level.” This season, all 16 vendors will be back—including those selling organic plants, locally roasted fair-trade coffee and eco-luxe treats like vegan biscotti and artisan chocolates— plus new vendors for bread, cut flowers, prepared foods and possibly dairy products. There will be meal baskets, combining ingredients from various sellers. And a test program for a CSM—community-supported market— through which members would get a weekly share from a variety of vendors. There will be workshops on topics like canning and preserving, cooking demonstrations by chefs and students, and signage explaining concepts such as grass-fed vs. grain-fed. As much as possible, they’ll do market share deliveries by bicycle. It doesn’t get much more local than that.

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