YORKTOWN, N.Y. – After a five-year hiatus, the Yorktown Farmers Market will return April 22, this time in collaboration with the Jefferson Valley Mall.
Originally born in 2012 out of Yorktown Organizations United (YOUnited), an organization dedicated to supporting other community organizations, resident Karen Muendell ran the market for just one summer. During that short time, the market donated almost $11,000 to local charities.
Muendell, a 17-year resident, now operates the farmers market as chief operations officer of the not-for-profit organization, Maize Market Management, which she runs with her husband and one of her daughters. In collaboration with the Jefferson Valley Mall, Muendell said she plans for the market to return to its former status as a hub in the community that can offer a more personal experience.
“We had our regulars that would come every week and farmers and vendors all knew them by name,” she said. “[They] would say, ‘Hey, I brought this for you,” or “I know you like apples, so check these out,” which is exactly what I wanted. I’m hoping this market will evolve into much of the same.”
Continuing in the earlier market’s image, this market will also provide a platform for local charities to be spotlighted each week. These charities of the week (COWS as Muendell refers to them) set up booths, fundraise and host presentations free of charge.
Alexa O’Rourke, director of marketing for the Jefferson Valley Mall, said the mall had been looking for a way to collaborate with some of the non-profits in town and said that the farmers market is a great fit. The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday beginning April 22 until Sept. 16.
“We have started an awesome partnership,” O’Rourke said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, April 22, to commemorate the first market of the season.
Muendell, who owns two businesses, is also a community theater actor with an upcoming show. A busy mother of five children ranging in ages from 13 to 30, Muendell said she appreciated the mall’s assistance with setting up and promoting the farmers market.
In addition to various vendors, a list of which is posted at yorktownfarmersmarket.com, there will be a weekly, used cookbook exchange and a different artist, performer, lecture or demonstration will be featured each week.
A chef by trade, Muendell has experienced the food industry from different angles. She owns Serves You Right Catering and occasionally works as a private chef. She will premiere her newest business venture, Firehorse Premium Foods, a collection of spice blends and sauces, at the farmers market this year.
Her involvement with farmers markets began after she graduated from the International Culinary Center, known then as the French Culinary Institute, in 2010. After graduation, she worked as a demonstration chef at area farmers markets where she got to know many vendors and farmers. The more familiar she became with the marketplace, the more she felt that the structure of a typical farmers market was limiting to everyone involved.
“Everybody knows farmers work really hard—it’s the hardest job in the world,” she said. “I felt like they were getting the short end of the stick.”
She described 15-by-10-foot spaces starting at $50 and prices went up from there. Management companies charged high vendor fees to pay their staff, she explained.
“If you’ve been to farmers markets, the produce farmers take up the biggest space and make the least amount of money,” she said. “So, I was like, something is not right.”
Operating as a non-for-profit, Maize Market Management works with the farmers and the community in mind, Muendell said, which sets it apart from other markets. Vendors for instance, pay one price regardless of how much space they need.
“It’s about getting them in front of our local consumer,” Muendell said. “It’s not about making a huge profit for me.”
What’s important, she said, is deepening the relationship between the community and the vendors, as well as among neighbors, which she believes the Yorktown Farmers Market will succeed in.
“It’s not just a nutritional thing, it’s not just a sustenance thing—food is a social thing,” she said. “We go out with our friends for a meal or even more intimately, invite friends to our house to sit down for a meal…I like to think that the farmers market is an extension of that because it’s so much more personal than shopping at a supermarket.”
That’s not to say that supermarkets are bad, Muendell stressed.
“Supermarkets are wonderful and we need them for sure,” she said. “But you rarely see the Quaker Oats guy standing there; you don’t have that luxury. Here you get to meet the farmers. You get to meet the people that had a hand in bringing this food to you that you’re going to serve to your family, friends or both.”