As Tompkins County’s local food scene continues to grow, an expanding variety of venues are making it more accessible to buyers and sellers alike.

After encountering a “pop-up” farmers’ market in Hawaii, Lea Elleseff grew interested in starting one in the parking lot of the Freeville Firehouse where she lives. Unlike other farmers’ markets, pop-ups allow vendors to choose when to attend and how large or small a quantity of products to sell, barter, or give away. This opens them up to gardeners and other very small-scale producers.

But creating the market would require a certified produce scale, along with a few pop-up tents, tables, and chairs for vendors unable to provide their own. In March 2015, Sustainable Tompkins awarded Lea a Neighborhood Mini-Grant for buying this equipment.

The market’s first season, Sundays from June 26-October 16, was a great success. Each day featured 7-18 adults, teenagers, and children selling produce, eggs, baked goods, crafts, and more. Several vendors of all ages began new enterprises for the market, learning the ropes of business in a safe and friendly place. Community grew as people traded cooking tips, exchanged products, and forged social and professional connections. At the season’s end, vendors gave testimony to their success:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for community building. The vendors are friendly and interesting folk. […] I just started my business in August 2016 and this was the perfect opportunity to test my products and get feedback from the regular visitors.” – Cindie Murray Bartels, owner of Cindie’s Bakeshop.

“Our small stand grew into a well-known business around Freeville. A family that owns a paleo restaurant in Dryden came and started to buy all of our leftovers weekly. We have also learned to manage money, like budgeting, saving, and buying ingredients. Thanks to Lea for starting and organizing this farmer’s market!” – Siera Haley, co-owner of S & H Gluten Free Treats with her sister Hana.

Lea hopes to continue growing the market next year, with more vendors and a longer season. To follow the market’s events and see many great photos, find them on Facebook.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. In turn, we need your support! Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.