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LES Market Update

Although I like brutally cold winters, I was looking forward to this spring, to see how our newest neighborhood institutions — the the Hester Street Fair and Greenmarket — survived the winter. I especially looked forward to it because I thought that the flourishing of these markets would give some leverage to the idea of getting the front gates to Seward Park (those on Essex Street) to be opened, thereby enhancing the flow of people through our neighborhood and onto the otherwise rather desolate streets.

In the process of investigating the idea of getting the park gates opened, I checked in with those running the Hester Street Fair and Greenmarkets, to learn about their plans for 2011.

Hester Street Fair

Hester Street Fair: Saturdays, starting May 7.

Although they had many great days and wonderful press all season long, in between bursts of publicity, the Hester Street Fair seemed to need some help. In between their great promotions, they were losing vendors — there was quite a bit of open space in the market by the end of the season! Suhyun Pak, one of the founders and managers of the fair is optimistic about the 2011, and shared that in 2011, the "fair" will take place only on Saturdays; Sundays will be reserved for public "events", the nature of which he would not disclose.

Greenmarket

Although the Greenmarket got very busy by the end of last season, that wasn't enough to make it a sustainable operation. By that time, the number of participating farmers had whittled down to just one, and the season just wasn't profitable enough to warrant their return. Lela Chapman, Greenmarket's Regional Coordinator, explained that the logistics of farmers bringing food to the city and working the tables was expensive, and that our neighborhood hadn't provided the foot-traffic to sustain it. All hope is not lost — Greenmarket's sister program, Youthmarket, has plans to establish something in our neighborhood (but not on Essex Street, and not on weekends).

Youthmarket

Youthmarket: Thursdays, 1-6pm, starting mid-July.

A Youthmarket is similar to a Greenmarket, except rather than farmers spending the day selling their produce, local youth are employed as intermediaries. Chapman explains that the "Youthmarket program buys local produce wholesale from our farmers, and places local youth at market to sell it. So it's a model that is both financially sustainable in places that Greenmarkets are not, and works as a job training program. It's a way of continuing to have a market presence serving the area".

Youthmarket Program Coordinator, Olivia Blanchflower, explained that the market will start out with three 10'x10' tents staffed by three people, and will hopefully expand. In terms of offerings, she says "we’ll start out with a range of fresh, seasonal produce and will expand as we get into the season depending on what the market will bear. Of course, we will survey our customers and welcome any feedback we can get about the market. Potential products could include fish, dairy, baked goods, etc."

It is my hope that the Youthmarket will be successful... and that in time they will get a vehicle so that they can have a weekend presence on Hester Street as well.