TROY — The Waterfront Farmers Market heads outdoors for its 20th season Saturday, May 4 with added vendors in an expanded area to explore.
“Twenty years ago, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market started with about two dozen vendors in a parking lot,” said Zack Metzger, president of the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market. “This summer, we will have more than 100 vendors throughout four city blocks in Troy’s beautiful downtown business district. It’s amazing to think about how much this market has grown along with this community to become a premiere regional attraction.”
A flyer produced in 2000 by Troy’s RiverSpark Visitor Center, introduced the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market as a new “producer-only market offering fresh, mostly organic fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and meats, as well as locally handmade craft items.” The flyer continues: “It promises to be the best open-air farmers’ market in the entire region.”
Today, the Troy Waterfront Farmers market routinely receives “Best of” accolades by regional media and in reader polls.
Staying true to its producer-only tradition, the market has added vendors along the way. By its third season, in 2002, the market had grown to 45 vendors and introduced a year-round schedule that continues to this day.
This season, the market is adding 15 new vendors, each carefully selected from among 94 applicants for their ability to enhance the market’s offerings.
New products include: heritage-breed duck and goose; gluten-free Spätzle, a type of German-style noodle made with fresh eggs; Dorper sheep meat and products, known for a mild yet rich flavor; fresh specialty popsicles; and lobster rolls.
Most of the newly added vendors this summer will be located along the Lower River Street block, extending the market to State Street, complimenting the brick-and-mortar stores there.
“We’re confident the Lower River Street market area is going to be an exciting draw for shoppers looking for something new and unique,” said Metzger. “It’s going to be great for everyone involved because people can find all the new vendors in one place. The merchants along the street are excited to have them there.”
1857 Spirits, makers of handcrafted potato vodka, and Schenectady Distilling Co., makers of whisky, gin and other spirits, will set up near the Hudson Chatham Winery tasting room at 203 River Street, in a deliberate pairing meant to spur mutual business.
The market is also booking musicians to play near two music related stores: The River Street Beat Shop, sellers of vinyl records, cassettes and CDs; and Nine Steps To Africa, sellers of African instruments and other products.
Market organizers will coordinate with both shops to entice music lovers down the block.
“Best news in four years,” said Beat Shop Owner James Barrett of the market’s expansion plans during a recent meeting of merchants and market representatives.
For many years, Barrett and other Lower River Street merchants have wanted the market to extend down to their block and this year the opportunity offered by new vendors allows the market to make that happen.
“I’m super impressed,” said JD Fielding, owner of Mindful Intentions at 193 River St. “This is what everyone on the block has been asking for. This has exceeded our expectations.”
Troy YMCA will begin a new Healthy Family Zone during market hours on the Riverfront Plaza Staircase on River Street north of Monument Square. The plaza is recognizable for its colorful painted “TROY” logo on the Southern wall.
Programs will focus on healthy activities that children and their families can participate in together.
Over recent years, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market has been thinking of how it could evolve in the city of Troy.
In early fall 2018, the market engaged Project for Public Spaces, an internationally renowned “placemaking” consultant, to lend its expertise and experience in an assessment of the current state of the market and its potential expansion. The PPS team visited Troy for two days in November. While here, PPS held a series of meetings, visited several potential market expansion locations, and facilitated two workshops concerning the market — one for the public which attracted more than 100 people, and a second for market vendors which drew approximately 50 vendors.
“There is real fear among vendors and the public that changing the TWFM will ruin it,” stated the PPS report, based on comments collected at the public workshop, such as: “We have the best market in the region. Don’t mess it up,” and “Don’t ruin a good thing.”
A few comments complained about congestion, some wanted clearer access to certain storefronts, while many hoped the market will maintain its urban street festival vibe. Taking this input into consideration, the market layout this year will leave slightly more space between vendors.
“A lot of people spoke up during the public workshop and we listened to the community,” Metzger said. “We don’t plan to mess with success, but we are making some adjustments to our market layout that should give everyone — including the storefronts — a bit more space to enjoy the market, while keeping the street festival vibe that people clearly love.”