Farmers markets are generally thought of as an outdoor activity only for the warmer months of the year. For one of the area’s largest, that’s about to change.
The Elmwood Bidwell Farmers Market will soon expand to become a year-round attraction, finding its second home at Buffalo State College’s Buckham Hall on the Grant Street side of the campus.
Elmwood Bidwell Farmers Market President Stewart Ritchie said plans have been in the works for a number of years to keep the market open throughout the colder months. Ritchie said everyone involved in making the transition was on board.
“When we approached Elmwood Village, they had been spoken to about the same issue, and Buffalo State was also thinking they wanted a winter market there. So it just seemed to be a perfect union of these people,” said Ritchie.
Ritchie said when temperatures drop below freezing, farmers can’t bring their produce out to sell at the summer-season market. Speaking as a farmer, himself, he said the winter market is an even more important opportunity when unexpected snows – like those of last 2014’s ‘Snowvember’ storm – close the outdoor market early.
“So by having an indoor place to go it really helps the farmers like myself. We have a lot of storage capacity for vegetables and we sell through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), but we also have a lot of crop left over. That enables us to sell that retail to our customers rather than having to wholesale it for very little money,” said Ritchie.
There will be some differences from the summer to winter markets. The winter market won’t feature the usual wine and beer vendors since it will be housed on a college campus. Buffalo State will help replace that feature by encouraging food trucks to come and offer ready-to-eat items. The winter market will feature around 15 vendors from the summer season and, with Buckham Hall’s large size, new vendors will be added as well. Ritchie said some of those new vendors will likely become part of the summer market. The hall also offers enough parking for both vendors and customers, as well as the first floor access that is key for farmers who want to avoid lugging tons of produce up and down stairs.
The winter market, which will start at a later 10 a.m., also offers farmers an expanded demographic to appeal to.
“There are college students there that we’d definitely like to attract to the market,” said Ritchie. “They do come to Elmwood Bidwell in the summer. And by pushing back the start time, that may be more appealing to a college student on a Saturday morning.”
With all its elements combined, Ritchie said a more relaxed market atmosphere is the goal.
The winter market opens December 5 and continues most Saturdays until the regular farmers opens on May 7th. After its first year, Ritchie said the winter marker will open the weekend after Halloween to get ahead of potentially cold and inclement weather.