My first real project after college was the Perry Farmers’ Market. Twenty years later, this market is still one of the best, and busiest, markets in the region.
A local architect and I collaborated and spent one year planning, fundraising, and finding vendors. Wyoming County is number one in NYS for dairy and agriculture, but our biggest struggle was finding farmers. Most farms were giant milk producers, not vegetable gardens.
We selected a locally loved artist to design the logo.
We worked with the Wyoming County Cooperative Extension to gather as many potential vendors in a room as possible.
We gave presentations to anyone that would listen.
The excitement was palpable in June 2002. The village paved the streets, shops were cleaned up, restaurants were ready for customers.
Vendors sold out of their produce and even ran home to get more. One vendor was so successful, he paid for the whole season at the end of opening day (he also bought a new truck for his farm at the end of the first season).
The Buffalo News ran a story in the City and Region section. People showed up in droves.
Over the past 20 years, I have lost count of how many businesses have opened after we launched the market. To name a few:
One of my favorite start-up stories is Burlingham Books.
Ann and Jason Burlingham started as a coffee vendor at the market, pushing their cart down the street every morning at 7am.
A few years later, when I was Executive Director of the Livingston-Wyoming Downtown Revitalization Program, I helped them obtain a grant to open their first bookstore & cafe on Main Street, Perry.
I still make an effort to visit the market every year, even when I live out of state. I buy apples from the vendor who hasn’t missed a market day in 20 years. I mingle with neighbors and listen to local bands while I eat fresh raspberries.