Picente: County Public Market Wins Federal Grant

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. today announced that Oneida County has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service through the Farmers' Market Promotion Program that will allow Oneida County to move forward with the next phases of the public market located at Union Station. The $68,641 grant will help provide funding to contract for a full-time market manager to grow the operation into a year-round market and will also provide funding for promotional and transportation projects that will help connect the market with community residents.

The Oneida County Public Market opened in late June at Union Station, in the historic Bagg’s Square area of downtown Utica. The market has been operating outdoors during the summer and early fall weather, but as of Saturday, October 22nd, is moving inside the train station for three Saturdays: October 22nd, November 12th and December 17th. During these three dates, the Oneida County Public Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The market will eventually transition into space that is being renovated in the long-closed Railway Express Agency wing of Union Station. Renovations to facilitate the move began this fall using funding already approved by the county and using county staff to the fullest possible extent to hold down costs.

“On behalf of the local growers who have supported the Oneida County Public Market in its initial, highly successful weeks, and the consumers who come to Union Station each Saturday in ever-increasing numbers, I want to thank the Agricultural Marketing Service for its support of our project,” Picente said.  “Our goal has been to add something to out community that is vibrant, attractive and also meets the needs of our farmers and consumers,” Picente said. “The federal investment in our project is a welcome sign for the future as we are entering the harvest season of 2011 and making plans for an even stronger market in 2012.”

Picente said the market blends the needs of consumers with those of the region’s long-standing agribusiness sector. “A marketplace is an added opportunity for our local farmers to increase their revenue by selling directly to consumers,” he said. “Consumers benefit by being able to buy locally grown produce that is fresh and healthy at very, very reasonable prices. Health-conscious families, senior citizens and others can make the market their place to shop to add some great-tasting, healthy choices to the week’s menu.”

Picente said that he wants to build upon the initial success by increasing traffic at the market. “Our efforts through this grant will be devoted to getting the word out to people who really should be taking advantage of this opportunity for healthy, nutritious, affordable, locally grown food,” Picente said. “With the many different cultures in Utica, just a short ways from the market, we know there will be an interest. We want to work with our transit providers to set up some initial bus routes so that seniors or families without vehicles can come down to the Market on a Saturday through a form of shuttle service.”

Picente said that putting the details of the plan together will be the job of a market manager, who will be contracted as part of the efforts funded by the grant. “Oneida County is looking for a dynamic individual who is committed to providing the people of our area with access to locally grown affordable, nutritious, and healthy food; who will work with farmers across our region to broaden participation in the Market; and who will work with all of our populations to ensure that people who need access to healthier food choices have that access through the Oneida County Public Market.”

Picente said County Government will advertise a Request For Proposals in a formal search for persons who are interested in the position. He said the search will begin very soon.

Picente also noted that the grant will also buy refrigeration and storage equipment for the market. “Our goal is to be open as many weekends of the year as possible, once the renovations to the REA Wing have been completed and this outstanding space will be available. To make that happen, we need freezer space so that local growers can harvest their crop, store it at the market, and then reap their profits long after the harvest season is over.”

“The Oneida County Public Market is a very exciting opportunity that we have developed,” Picente said. “Through Oneida County’s long-standing partnership with Oneida County Cooperative Extension and the hard work of many people who believed in this project, we have created a successful market with a number of vendors and other partners to provide a unique blend of vendors committed for the year who will be offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, yogurts, prepared food, arts and crafts.”