New changes to Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday markets
For the first time in it’s 47 year existence, the Ithaca Farmers Market has just announced a capital campaign. The group, made up of more than 100 vendors, has been contemplating the idea of a fundraiser for many years – but with the challenges of COVID, couldn’t wait any longer to ask their community for support. Their goal is to raise $20,000 in 2020.
“Each small business at the market functions on their own, and the market organization works to support each one,” said Executive Director Becca Rimmel. “We make money from vendors’ membership fees and use it to run the market on a daily basis. This year, our normal revenue streams have been drastically impacted, but we still have basic operating expenses like staff, infrastructure, marketing, utilities and insurance. We’re looking to our community to help make sure the market stays a strong community resource.”
While the market has been open during the pandemic, business has not been usual. Sunday and Wednesday markets opened a month late, and both Saturday and Sunday market vendors have been limited to 50% normal capacity to help with social distancing. Artisan vendors, not deemed essential, weren’t allowed to attend market for 2 months. So far they have not allowed any eating on site. In conjunction with the Tompkins County Health Department, IFM has worked hard to keep the market open as a safe grocery outlet – and not the social gathering spot it’s known to be. Limited markets means a lot less money for each business, and limited vendors means a lot less money for the organization.
To combat some of the losses, the market has setup a donation page on their website where users can donate any amount directly through PayPal to benefit the organization. They’re calling it the “Market Hero” program, and anyone who gives more than $30 receives a limited edition tote bag with a logo designed by market vendor Laurin Ramsey. Special deals and promotions will run later in the year for tote bag holders. For those who want to support in a different way – the market is now also selling branded merchandise online for the first time ever, including the famous cookbook.
The financial troubles of COVID-19 hit at an especially bad time for IFM. At the end of 2019 the organization was awarded $339,150 in grant money for infrastructure improvements as part of statewide Regional Economic Development Council funding. The grant is set up as a reimbursement grant – meaning that IFM must spend money first, and get paid back later. The drop in revenue during 2020 has made things tricky moving forward with a grant that’s been years in the making.
Opening back up
Now that New York state is reopening, expect some changes at the market.
“The phases of reopening New York state seem to be working well in Tompkins County,” said Rimmel. “We are taking things a little slower because we know how busy our market can get, and we want to keep our community safe. We have plans for our own stages to open up back to normal.”
Beginning this weekend, all 88 market booths are allowed to be filled during market days. Market staff have been enforcing a “one person per household or group” rule, but beginning this weekend, that will be raised to allow two people per group. The number of customers inside the building will still be closely monitored to allow proper social distancing. This first stage will last two weeks, with more changes to come after an initial assessment.
“The well-being of our community is our top priority,” said Rimmel. “We’ll continue to balance safety for vendors and customers, as well as the need for our vendors to bring in much-needed business.”
The market serves as a year-round hub of commerce and community, and has allowed many people the chance to start their own business on a small scale – without the expenses and risks usually associated with the process. Over the years the market has proved to be one of the most iconic in the nation and helped grow brands like Gimme Coffee, Ithaca Hummus and Emmy’s Organics. If you want to help the market stay around for years to come, please visit their website and share this message far and wide.