This is Michael Greenfield and Jodi Thomas’ 19th year of driving 45 miles from their Endwell, N.Y., home to visit the Ithaca Farmers Market.
“We love the vegetables, and we love the bread,” Greenfield said. “It is becoming increasingly important [to eat organic], and we are becoming much more aware than we were 10 or 20 years ago.”
Greenfield and Thomas were among the hundreds of people who waited in traffic at the intersection of Route 13 and Third Street last Saturday to get into the market, which opened its doors at Steamboat Landing for the new season. About 5,000 visitors come each day the market is open to buy goods from about 166 craftspeople and growers, according to the market’s Web site.
“It was the best opening day on record for a lot of people,” said Susan Rollings from Sundancer Designs, a craft vendor at the Farmers Market who is also a part of a few of the market committees. “I have been there eight years, and it was certainly the best one I have experienced.”
The Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing is open from April to December for students and locals to share the Ithaca tradition of buying locally produced and organic food. It has been a staple in the Ithaca community since it first opened in 1973. The market moved five times before settling at its current location, where a dock was added in 1997 to accommodate customers traveling by boat.
The Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays, beginning in May, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Steamboat Landing. It is also open Tuesdays, beginning in May, at DeWitt Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and recently opened a fourth market on Thursdays, beginning in June, at DeWitt Park from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Cathy Koken, the market manager, said last year they opened the market a fourth day in the week because participation had grown tremendously.
“For vendors who cannot get in on Saturday and Sunday and Tuesday markets, we have opened a new market,” Koken said. “The vendors that can’t get in to those three markets can come on Thursday evening. We are hoping to really make that market grow.”
Koken said a vendor must live within 30 miles of the market pavilion and make, grow and produce quality food.
Rollings said the vendors also have to pay daily stall fees.
“It is a friendly, inviting place,” Rollings said. “It is a place you come because you want to have a good time [and] to buy healthy foods.”
Ian Gaffney and Samantha Abrams ’08 of Emmy’s Organics said they look forward to selling at the market each week.
“We are really excited to play with new ideas and get things ready for the rest of the season,” Abrams said.
Gaffney and Abrams started selling last year, and Gaffney said it has been great for business.
“One of our dreams was to be a vendor at the Farmers Market,” Gaffney said. “It is just a direct feedback from our customers and our fans. You can figure out different ways of marketing a product.”
They also have a building downtown where they sell their produce for wholesale. However, Abrams said she comes to the market because she likes interacting with the community.
“It’s the community of Ithaca at its finest,” she said. “This community really supports local entrepreneurs and locally grown ingredients, locally made things, and it’s just what Ithaca is about.”
Kristie Mahoney, with her daughter and husband, has been coming to the Farmers Market since the summer of 1999 when her family first moved to the area.
“It is our Saturday morning ritual,” Mahoney said. “It feels like Ithaca. I now know the vendors and see them, and we feel a part of contributing to their lives. The biggest impression is … watching the families grow and watching the generations of farmers and vendors.”
Two years ago was the first time senior Jane Case made the trek to the Farmers Market from the college.
“I wish I had been coming here since I was a freshman,” she said. “It was just fun to get local food and walk around when it is nice out and sit down at the water.”
Junior Lori DeGolyer, who has been coming to the market for two years, said she enjoys getting away from campus.
“It is nice to be around the community versus the bubble of IC,” she said.
Thomas said after watching the movie “Food, Inc.” Greenfield and Thomas no longer eat store-bought meat, and the market is the only place they come to for organic food. Thomas said there is a need for farmers markets now more than ever before.
“When I was growing up you almost didn’t need a farmers market because the meat wasn’t produced like it is now,” she said.
Dee Sprague, a local artisan who sells her paintings and greeting cards, said she enjoys the community feel of the market.
“[Families] get a bite to eat and take a look at the local art, sit by the water, and they are meeting their friends here, so there is a definite sense of community here, ” she said.
Rollings said the local food scene has been growing across the country, and it makes more sense for the health of the planet to eat closer to home.
“[Farmers markets] should be the wave of the future all over the country,” she said. “I am very grateful to live in a place that has something like that. I wouldn’t want to have to make a living a different way.”