With the weather warming over the last few weeks, the Ithaca Farmers Market will be restarting its outdoor market this Saturday, April 6 at Steamboat Landing, running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. while pursuing several improvements to increase customers’ comfort.
According to Ithaca Farmers Market President David Stern, the market’s leaders spent the winter devising improvement plans that they will look to implement during the market’s 46th year. First on the list is a parking lot renovation, for which the market has already hired engineering and grant writing services, with the goal of expanding access (a consistent general theme of potential market upgrades) by making the lot more amenable to shuttle services, people with disabilities and more cars.
The waterfront looks as if it will be the next spot for a run of development over the next few years, a possibility that the farmers market has noticed and intends to take advantage of. As that development continues, it appears that the current pavilion upgrades will not be the only improvements that the market will aim to make.
“If all goes well with the parking lot, a second round of activity will seek funding for priorities that have been expressed by vendors and customers including winterization, potential expansion and improved event space,” according to a press release issued by the Ithaca Farmers Market. “The market is also considering how an updated pavilion might allow the organization to better support the vendors and community members through a range of possibilities including additional business incubation services, a commercial kitchen, community educational activities, increased food access for vulnerable communities and more.”
Stern emphasized that with the upgrades, the market is looking to repair relationships with local market-goers who may have been turned off by potholes or lack of space in the parking lot while also providing a more attractive option for people visiting Ithaca during the summer months.
“The fact that there’s a focus on the waterfront means that we’re going to have some very different neighbors than we have right now, and the area in general is just going to see a huge amount of development activity over the next, say, five years,” Stern said. “As waterfront development ramped up, it seemed like a great idea to get in sync with what was happening in that area and engage with neighboring developers to see how the market’s future could link to the future of our neighbors.”
Stern said through meetings with neighboring developers, they learned that the market was going to be used as a selling point to potential tenants of those developments. Obviously, that would likely result in more pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
“We have to upgrade our facility to be ready for what’s happening around us, and also just because the market pavilion is old and it’s not going to last forever,” Stern said. “We need to think about what the next version looks like. The fact is, we’ve lost local customers increasingly because of the shoddy state of the parking lot and how crowded it gets on the weekends.”
Even with the wave of development now aimed at its surrounding area, Stern said he’s not worried about the farmers market getting lost amid the changing neighborhood. With support from the city, he believes that some of the issues the market faces could be solved simply by neighboring projects addressing problems they will also face.
“The risk is overcrowding that area with traffic and people,” Stern said. “Everybody is going to have a problem, not just us. The traffic and access problems that have to be solved by the neighboring developments are going to help solve the market as well. The amount of support the city has shown us has been generous, and seems to be unequivocal.”
While the market will only run on Saturdays at Steamboat Landing, located at 545 Third St., for now, it will soon add Sunday hours from May 5 through Oct. 27, opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. those days, with an additional Thursday night market starting on June 27 and running until August 29.