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On Saturdays from June till October, downtown Jamestown comes alive with the sights, sounds and smells of the city’s largest farmer’s market. What once were unremarkable streets and sidewalks are transformed by the fragrant perfume of just-picked flowers, the rainbow of fruits and vegetables resting beneath white canopies, and the twang of local musicians picking guitars and crooning soulfully into microphones. This is the Jamestown Public Market.
This year, the Jamestown Public Market is slated to open on Saturday, June 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market, which is put on by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC), is set up each weekend on Cherry Street in downtown Jamestown, on the stretch of road between Second and Third Street. It is scheduled to run every Saturday through the end of October, weather permitting. And as always, this year’s market is guaranteed to feature local farm and artisan goods, cooking and gardening demonstrations, live entertainment, and much, much more.
“Not a lot of things like this are happening in downtown Jamestown,” said Christina Breen, Events Coordinator, Project Associate, and Public Market Manager at the JRC. “[The market] is not just a place to buy fresh, local fruits and vegetables. It’s also a place to sit down, eat, chat with your neighbors, and listen to live music in an outdoor venue. There’s so much vibrancy.”
Vibrancy is exactly the right word to describe the Jamestown Public Market. On any given Saturday, Cherry Street will be lined with vendors from all walks of life, including several local businesses that are considered regulars: Abers Acres, Friendship Farms, the BioDome Project, Gardens of Eternity, Gypspy Moon Cake Company, and Scott’s Farm and Greenhouse, just to name a few. Customers mill about the tents, spotting familiar faces and meeting new ones over baskets of fat heirloom tomatoes or bundles of cheerful gladiolas. Some people sit in the sun and enjoy plates of hot food, others tap their feet to the fiddle singing nearby, and still others teach their children about the tastes and textures of fresh produce. All of this, according to Breen, is really what the Jamestown Public Market is about. It’s about building a community.
“Our goal with this market is to create a vibrant downtown and to strengthen our neighborhood,” Breen said. “We wanted to create a lively event that would encourage people to come out, take part, and develop a familiarity with what is happening in and around Jamestown. It’s all about community building and gathering.”
In this sense, the Jamestown Public Market aligns with the overall mission of the JRC: to revitalize the city, promote healthy neighborhoods, and stimulate local businesses. It is one of many programs the JRC has created to strengthen the Jamestown community, including GROW Jamestown, Hands On Jamestown, and Jamestown Up Close.
“The market really ties in with our other programs,” Breen said. “It’s just an extension of the JRC mission and it’s in alliance with all that we do.”
The JRC’s mission is not the only mission compatible with the Jamestown Public Market, however. The market has also established footing with several other movements gaining traction in Jamestown, such as the clean eating movement. The simple philosophy of clean eating – consuming foods that are minimally processed, refined and handled – is heavily supported by farmer’s markets, where the food goes straight from the farm to the table. Clean eating promotes consumer knowledge about the nutritional value of food (embracing the adage “know your farmer, know your food”) and places a higher value on organic produce from small farms than produce from the supermarkets, which have usually has been subject to pesticides and genetic modification.
Then there are the self-proclaimed “locavores,” people whose diets primarily consist of locally grown and raised food. This is another growing movement in Chautauqua County, as more and more people decide to buy exclusively from area farmers and business owners. In doing so, locavores not only stimulate the local economy but also enjoy the added nutritional benefits of fresh, organic food.
“We’re seeing a lot of people in Chautauqua County who want to buy local and skip the grocery store,” Breen said. “More people are embracing that sort of initiative and making it a part of their everyday lives. I think part of the reason for that is because we have such a bountiful landscape for agriculture here. We’re number one in New York State for number of small farms – no matter where you go in the county, you’re bound to pass a handful of farms. And that definitely helps our market because we have so many farmers to choose from.”
According to Breen, it is Chautauqua County’s sheer abundance of agriculture that inspired the idea of a Jamestown Public Market in the first place. In fact, she says the presence of this farmer’s market in the city of Jamestown dates back all the way to 1878.
“When the JRC took over the market, we decided to do a bit of research at the Fenton History Center and dig deeper about the presence of the farmer’s market in Jamestown,” Breen said. “What we discovered is that it’s been around for quite some time. There were publications in one of the local newspapers from the 1800s talking about the need for a farmer’s market in Jamestown.”
Soon after these publications, an official sort of farmer’s market was established. Over the decades, the market hopped around various locations in Jamestown: Third Street, Main Street, and Pine Street. In 1910, it was included in the city directory under the name “Jamestown Public Market.” By the 1970s, the market was not under the control of any one organization in particular, rather operating as a sort of grassroots event. Then, about ten years ago, the JRC decided to take over management of the market to ensure its continued presence for years to come.
“When the JRC got a hold of the market it was called the Downtown Jamestown Farmer’s Market,” Breen said. “But after all our research, we decided that we wanted to re-brand and call ourselves the Jamestown Public Market. By doing that, we hope to give relevance to the historical aspect of the farmer’s market name.”
While the JRC may embrace the modest historical roots of the farmer’s market, that has not stopped the organization from growing the Jamestown Public Market into a bigger and better event each year. Nowadays, the market provides much more than fresh produce: it also offers children’s activities, tastings and demonstrations, live entertainment and hot food, special programming, and even occasionally showcases live animals.
“That’s what I think keeps people coming back,” Breen said. “It’s a comprehensive event – there are are a lot of things under one under one umbrella at the market. I think that’s a big draw for people because they can come to one place and do so much.”
For more information on this year’s Jamestown Public Market, visit the JRC’s website at JamestownRenaissance.org or visit the market’s Facebook page, @JamestownPublicMarket. Applications for vendors interested participating in this year’s market are also available for download at the JRC’s website. They can be submitted at any point in the 2017 season by email to Christina Breen at firstname.lastname@example.org.