LIVINGSTON COUNTY – Livingston County Development is intently searching for a way to fund the next step in developing an enclosed, year-round county-wide public market: hiring a farm market administrator to manage any existing small farm markets whose leadership would rather focus their efforts elsewhere.
Bill Bacon, Director of Livingston County Development, says that the next step recommended by an independent consultant is to bring a person in who can run small, existing public markets to take the management pressure off the vendors, if they so desire, for the next season at the very least.
“This is our next step, and we’re in the throes of looking for funding, be it through a federal or state grant or a partnership,” said Bacon. “No matter what, the local markets aren’t going anywhere. This county-wide market administrator would just take tasks off the plates of current local market administration.”
There are currently farmers markets in Lima, Geneseo, Mount Morris, Nunda and Dansville, and one newly forming in Livonia Center.
If funded, the administrative position would be in place to oversee these markets for the coming eight-month season at least, and possibly longer if the brick-and-mortar enclosed public market takes root. If not, then the position would not be renewed for next year.
The public market idea was well-received by over 1,300 members of the public in its online survey phase. The idea is to have an enclosed, centrally-located, year-round public market for local farmers and food vendors to sell fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, eggs…potentially any locally-grown food under the sun.
Bacon re-iterated that if the public market is eventually constructed several steps later, the local markets will remain in place.
“We want to shore up these local markets, make them stronger,” said Bacon. “Having the local farm markets already in play is huge for the public market vision. It means folks are already in the habit of buying and eating fresh, locally grown produce. The farm markets could act as spokes to the hub of a large indoor, year-round public market.”
The county has more visions for local farm markets that could have lasting effects whether the public market building is constructed or not. Bacon said that a quality of life improvement for local communities would be to enable more farm market vendors to accept EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards as currency.
“There are definitely food deserts in Livingston County,” said Bacon. “It’s a priority of ours to make sure that folks who do use EBT or SNAP have access to the fresh food sold at these markets, and potentially at a public market. It’s a quality of life thing. We know that having access to healthy food is a critical quality of life element for sure.”