FreshConnect Brings More Produce to Rural Areas; Farmers’ Markets Show Bountiful Harvests of Upstate New York

By Assemblyman Will Barclay

With August upon us, farmers’ markets and local produce stands are displaying a bountiful harvest.  From flowers, to peaches, to honey and all the makings for a great salad, the markets have something to offer us all.

I enjoy visiting the local farmers’ market, especially this time of year.  It gives local residents an opportunity to see where and who their food comes from and often, customer loyalties are formed which help sustain farmers for many seasons.

I was happy to support FreshConnect in this budget.  This is a new program which was created last year.  The legislature set aside funds for rural communities to improve access to locally grown produce through a competitive grant process.  Since its beginnings last year, the program has helped fund 34 projects to create 50 locations statewide to improve access.  Many locations have been developed near us in Tomkins County, for example. As more people become aware of the program, I hope to see more sites open nearer to us.

According to the Governor’s office, New York has over 560 farmers’ markets, a number that has more than doubled in the past ten years. Farmers’ markets benefit city, suburban and rural residents by allowing them more and easier access to fresh food, and also help New York farmers enhance their profit margins–a necessity to family farms who rely on the weather and happen to be in the midst of a serious drought, for example, this year.

FreshConnect was designed to help those with limited supermarket access.  Data shows 1.5 million New Yorkers live in areas with limited supermarket access. Expanding fresh food access in underserved communities has been shown to improve nutrition and lower costs related to obesity and diet-related disease while fostering community and economic development.

Farmers’ markets, youth farm stands, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop off sites in underserved areas help achieve this goal, and to further assist, many accept Food Stamps and offer financial nutrition incentives, such as the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.  This is a great program designed for participating farmers to accept and redeem coupons for fresh produce.

Buying local matters and visiting the local farmers’ market is an easy way to buy local.  You may have heard of the term “locavore.” It’s a catchy word used to describe people who make it a point to eat and buy locally grown produce. There are even apps for smartphones, iPods and iPads designed to assist the locavore movement.  You may even be able to call yourself a locavore if you already seek local produce and wares.

The following local farm markets are registered with the New York State Department of Agriculture and can be found throughout the region.

Lacona — Corner of Maple Avenue and Hardwood Drive, Thursdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Fulton — Canalview Park and Shop parking lot, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Oswego — West First Street, Thursdays from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Pulaski — South Park, Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m.

Volney — Volney Town Hall parking lot, 1445 County Route 6, Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

New Haven — New Haven Town Hall, Mondays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Central New York Regional Market — 2100 Park St., Syracuse, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

here are also many roadside farm stands which can be frequented several times during the week.  Either way you shop, I would encourage you to know where you food is coming from and to shop locally—a great way to support the businesses and communities here.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.  My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.  You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.