MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Fresh produce lovers rejoice! A farmers market is coming to Mahopac just in time for summer.
The town’s Recreation and Parks Department is in the planning stages of bringing a farmers market to the parking lot of Town Hall at the corner of Croton Falls Road and McAlpin Avenue by around mid-May.
“We put it out on Facebook and there was a lot of interest saying they would like to see a farmers market in the town of Carmel. So we are just in the preliminary stages,” said Nina Kallmeyer, senior recreation leader, during a Recreation Advisory Committee meeting Feb. 7. “I emailed Cornell Cooperative Extension and they sent us over a very informative guide on how to develop a farmers market.”
Kallmeyer said she also reached out to the county Health Department to look into any regulations it may stipulate for farmers markets.
“They don’t regulate them,” she said. “We would only need permits for vendors preparing foods and all vendors would need a permit from state agriculture department.”
Kallmeyer said the Rec Department wants to sit down with reps from Cornell Cooperative Extension in person to discuss the farmers market and said they’ve expressed a willingness to do that. She said organizers of the Peekskill farmers market have also offered to help.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than one would think,” Kallmeyer said.
The Rec Department is forming a steering committee for the farmers market. An eclectic blend of “key people” would make up the committee, Kallmeyer said, and move the project along.
“First and foremost, we need a farmer and get their input on what to sell and what really works,” she said. “We want local business representation like the Chamber of Commerce. We need consumer representation, municipal leaders, key professional people, our news outlets, people who have backgrounds in accounting, as well as local nonprofits like the Rotary and the Lions Club, someone from Cornell Cooperative and the Health Department. There is a large group of people that is key and vital to making this happen.”
Councilwoman Suzi McDonough, who serves as a liaison to the Recreation Advisory Committee, said the market would be held at the Town Hall in its inaugural year and then moved to Swan Cove in the business district in 2020, after the park planned for that location is completed.
“That would absolutely be a home run,” she said. “It’s right in downtown with lots of people coming in and it is a beautiful backdrop. But we don’t want to wait until 2020, so we are thinking of having it at Town Hall ... where the amount of traffic on Croton Falls Road is incredible. We would let everyone know that next year we would be moving it over to Swan Cove.”
Committee members said they researched the best ways to find and then keep farmers market vendors.
“The best farmers markets have constant vendors that are always there. We found that a lot of them offer a seasonal rate,” said Lynn Mongon. “I think for the first year though, we are going to have to keep the cost to a minimum because we are just starting out and need the exposure until we build it up a little and then we can go into the seasonal contracts with the vendors, which can be $500 or $600.”
Jim Gilchrist, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, said his department would oversee the market.
“Right now the Rec Department would run it,” he said. “We do things like this like the Harvest Festival at Sycamore Park where we get a bunch of vendors out here and charge them something like $20 per table. I would use that as a benchmark.”
Gilchrist said he would also have to figure out how to staff the event with a paid supervisor.
“We should have a paid person there, so we have to figure out what those costs would be,” he said, noting that cost would hinge on how many hours the market would run each weekend.
Gilchrist said people would be able to use the restrooms in the Town Hall so the town would save on the costs of renting Porta Potties.
Organizers said they’d like to make it an all-around event with live music and other attractions. The high school music department has already offered the services of the PACappella singing group and the steel drum band.
There was some discussion about bringing in food trucks, but some committee members said that would drain money away from the farmers market vendors.
“You bring 20 bucks and your kids see the food trucks and want this or that and they spend it on that instead of the farmers market,” said committee member Joyce Picone. “We want the priority to be the market; we can have other attractions to draw people there like art exhibits and arts and crafts.”
The plan is to start the market Memorial Day weekend or perhaps a few weeks prior to that and run it through Labor Day weekend.
“The more people we can get involved the more successful it will be,” McDonough said.