September 26, 2006

C.U. Students Discover Ithaca Farmers’ Market

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From authentic Cambodian cuisine to massage therapy, adventures abound at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. Every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from early April through Dec. 23, over 150 vendors gather on the shores of the Cayuga Inlet to sell local produce, crafts and food. However, despite its popularity, a proportionally low number of Cornell students venture off the Hill to experience the market for themselves.

The Ithaca Farmers’ Market began as a collection of tents in the Agway parking lot in 1973. Since then, the market has acquired a permanent, weatherproof pavilion where an exhaustive number of growers, craftsmen and food vendors sell locally produced specialties.

Among the products sold are local organic fruits and vegetables, custom woodcrafts, screen-printed tee shirts, baked goods, homemade ice cream, flat bread pizza and homemade soaps. Everything sold must be made within 30 miles of Ithaca, with local resources if possible.

Despite the draw, there is a lack of student presence at the market. “I feel a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Charlotte Schmidlapp ’08, “but everyone I’ve brought down here has liked it.”

Schmidlapp and her friend Jessica Wegan ’09 began visiting the market at the advice of a lacrosse teammate who works there. Even though Schmidlapp has attended Cornell for three years, she had never previously heard of the market. “I just found out about it, but I’ve been coming down every weekend since. I love the breakfast burritos.”

Farmers’ Market president Jan R. Newman acknowledged this problem. Newman said that she frequently sees plenty of Cornell and Ithaca College students, but “not as many as you would expect … people get into life on the Hill, whichever hill you’re on.” She credited all the expansion of residential life programs, particularly on the Cornell campus.

According to Ginny Garlein, head of advertising for the market, over $20,000 was spent in radio ads, newsprint ads and rack cards in local hotels and bed and breakfasts. The campaign, however, seems to have fallen short on campus.

Another problem is accessibility. Jade Ferguson grad, who frequents the market, pointed out that with the buses “it’s really inconvenient because you have to go down to the Commons and transfer, and it’s just faster to walk.” Service is available to the market via TCAT Route 13 from the Commons on Saturdays. However, the bus stops only once each hour and does not run at all on Sundays. The market is about a 20 minute walk from the Commons.

Staples of the market are organic produce and freshly prepared specialty foods. Authentic Cuban, Cambodian and Tibetan foods can all be found there. A particular point of interest is a stand selling the Ithaca region’s only organic, vegan produce. Veganic farming is a method of farming that involves avoiding any animal products, such as cow manure. The farm’s name is “Unexpected Farm.” “It’s something unusual in this area, but with E. coli and mad cow disease, I think it will catch on,” said Linda Buyukmihci-Bey, one of the farm’s owners.

Also of interest are the maple sugar products at “Reed’s Farm.” The maple cream, made from Ithaca area syrup, was voted the best at a recent worldwide competition in Chicago, according to farm owner Don Reed.

The market is open every weekend until Dec. 23, and Tuesdays through October. On Tuesdays, the market is moved to Dewitt Park. Crowds are considerably smaller on Tuesdays and Sundays.