New Market Manager Ava Bynum aims to make the market a destination
By Alison Rooney
By all accounts, the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market’s (CSFM) move to Boscobel last year worked out exceedingly well for all. The increase in customers made the vendors happy, and Boscobel gained exposure to a broader swathe of the community. Shoppers appreciated the much-improved parking and the layout, making for an easy stroll from stall to stall.
This year, with the departure of former longtime market manager Steve Bates to the Pleasantville Farmers Market, the CSFM has acquired some new energy in the form of Manager Ava Bynum, who, though being (or perhaps because of being) only 21, is uncorking a fount of ideas all in aid of the market becoming, in her words, “more of a community destination and a source for education.” Calling it a “personal mission” to make local food accessible and affordable, Bynum is going forward with a “whole new push for programming.”
The core vendors will be returning, and there will be a few more “in-rotation” vendors added, including Captain Lawrence Beer and North Winds Lavender Farm. There will be a new seating area and more prepared food sections, including coffee and breakfast options, along with lunch, to encourage people to linger awhile in conjunction with their shopping. This area will overlook a space cleared for performances and demonstrations, which will take place every week.
The first Saturday of each month will see musical performances, including one by Tom Chapin on June 1. The second will be devoted to children’s programs. The hope is for parents to come and grab breakfast and chat with friends while kids enjoy an activity.
On the third Saturday, there will be gardening instructions tailored to the farmers market sensibility. For example, there will be talks on composting, the storage of root vegetables, and components aimed at children, including “farmers market Spanish lessons,” and environmental workshops.
On fourth Saturdays there will be cooking demonstrations for local chefs or caterers — each with an important stipulation: that the recipe must be purchasable for under $20 for a family of four.
This ties in with Bynum’s wish that there be access to local foods and that the market cater to everyone in the community. She described the market as different from others she has visited in that most of the farmers themselves show up to sell their food here, and that many other regional markets feature crafts produced locally but not necessarily sourced locally.
With CSFM vendors, questions are asked in the vein of, with bakers, “Where are you getting your milk? Your herbs?” If these components are not sourced locally, the market works with the vendor to show them some options for possibly fulfilling this in the future. “It’s about pushing people to make that leap,” said Bynum.
She added that she sees the market as a place to do complete weekly shopping: “your bread, mushrooms, chicken, beef, honey, maple syrup and just an incredible offering — with other markets you have to supplement outside of the market.”
Asked about the economics of such shopping, as perceptions are that farmers market shopping can be pricier and out of reach for some, Bynum replied, “As someone who is living on a budget and feeding myself from the market, it can be done. Also, think about food as part of your health. Sometimes cheap food means cheap food and can have repercussions.” Bynum also mentioned that most of the produce vendors now accept food stamps and W.I.C. vouchers and that she is working with other vendors in hopes of doing the same.
Bynum grew up in Garrison and now lives in Beacon. She began working at the tender age of 11 for Four Winds Farm, a market mainstay, as a cashier — a “random job I picked up which wound up being an introduction to everything else that I’m doing.” She spent a week at Four Winds in her teens, which led to a stay several seasons long.
With the farming knowledge she acquired, she started a garden for the (now-closed) Garden Road School in Peekskill and taught there last year. That led to another of Bynum’s offshoots: the founding of Hudson Valley Seed, a new nonprofit that works to establish educational gardens in schools and integrate them into curricula, incorporating science, math, English in outdoors, hands-on work. Participating institutions include schools in Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Garrison and Beacon, where children are growing tomatoes, green onions and basil with the objective of having a salsa party as a concluding activity.
“It really is about starting as young as possible re food access. Children who learn nutrition in school ideally have those lessons reinforced at home, and that’s really only possible with a farmers market,” said Bynum. Beacon’s Common Ground Farm is the fiscal sponsor for Hudson Valley Seed.
Bynum has tapped into many other regional environmental organizations; she currently works part-time for Clearwater as an educator and participated in last summer’s River Institute program run by the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries’ Center for Environmental Innovation and Education. She is also helping to run the Power of Song program at Haldane. “It’s interesting to think how all the different things tie in — all related to food, education and access.”
What Bynum has chosen not to do is to go to college. She’s watched her peers depart, while she opted to travel and then work on a farm, all of which have given her a different perspective. She affirmed that “this area has offered me everything I want to learn about, and there are so many mentors here to learn from. There’s also such a diverse demographic to work with. Anyone can find an education anywhere; I’ve had so many opportunities to create my own education here. I expect to be here for some time — in fact in some ways I find I am just now discovering this area and everything that this community has to offer. My focus comes from feeling passionate about many things: politics, literacy, economics. I’ve heard from mentors that I needed to pick one thing from this web of things. Food is the one thing that has its fingers in all of this. By affecting food I can affect all these other things; food is the answer.”
The CSFM will be located at Boscobel starting May 11 through Nov. 16 and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each Saturday. For more information, visit csfarmmarket.org.