Farmers market finds winter home
By Joshua Maloni
When Jamie Symmonds turned over the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market to Rachel Jolbert mid-summer, she called her successor “an amazing woman who is wholeheartedly dedicated to her family, work, and this community”; someone whose “unparalleled work ethic, I believe, makes her the perfect candidate to take over the job as market manager. I have total confidence in her abilities and can’t wait to see all the wonderful things she will do in the future.”
Jolbert has been as advertised, expanding the weekly Academy Park market’s social media reach, creating a new Fall Festival – which is Saturday – and providing vendors an opportunity to continue offering goods into the winter months.
The baking and pastry arts professional, hospitality maestro and operator of Three Little Hens Baking Co. shared more about her plans for the market in this edited Q&A.
Q: It's been two and a half months since you took over the market. How have things been going?
Jolbert: Really great. Everyone seems to be really receptive and positive about the changes. Nothing's really changed except for me – which is what we were aiming for.
I have added a few new vendors. We started the winter market, which is really exciting, and a new partnership with the First Presbyterian Church on Cayuga Street. We're going to be in their basement two Saturdays a month starting at the end of October, through May.
Q: What made this the right time and the right place for that?
Jolbert: A lot of the vendors were asking if there was a possibility of it. And so, I figured that now is a better time than any to start talking to the community and finding a place where we might be able to extend our season into the winter.
There's lots of winter crops and different things from the farmers that they can grow and also just kind of keep over the winter. And then also the artisans, obviously, it gives them an outlet to continue to sell.
Q: Where in the church is the market going to be held?
Jolbert: It's going to be in their social hall, which is around the back – which is really nice. It's totally accessible. There's no stairs. There's a restroom down there. It's perfect for the community to access.
Q: Running the market in and of itself is a lot of work. Now adding a winter component to it, certainly, is another layer. But on top of that, you thought, “Hey, you know what else would be great? Let's have a special festival, too.”
Jolbert: (Laughs) Yeah. My whole life now revolves around my community and my children, and I think that it was just an exciting idea to kind of do something family-focused and fun for kids; and do something that hasn't really been done.
We have the Harvest Festival, which is amazing, and it's more about the crafts and the retail, and, obviously, now it's the Harvest & Hops, so the beer aspect of it. This is more of a family-friendly event that I'm trying to create.
It's been received really well by the community. We have over 5,000 people interested on Facebook, which, obviously, those people won’t all show up, but it seems to be very well received.
Q: It seems like it's also been very well received by the merchants. I see you have quite a number of people coming and providing products or services this weekend.
Jolbert: Yeah, we have about 30. So, all 16 of our full-time vendors from the season – plus about 15 of our part-time vendors – and then 30 vendors who are just coming in from the local surrounding areas for this event, which is really exciting.
The Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market will hold a family-friendly Fall Festival on Saturday at Academy Park, and then operate out of the First Presbyterian Church social hall (505 Cayuga St.) this winter. (Images courtesy of Rachel Jolbert)
Q: You’re going to have more food offerings and other things that people wouldn't necessarily see on a regular weekend.
Jolbert: We have a couple more food options. Venus Food Truck is coming, which is Mediterranean. We have Beans,’ which is a barbecue catering service that’s coming to bring more food.
We're going to have pony rides; we have face painting; we have Hair Shimmers; we even have tarot card readings. So, we have a little bit of something for everyone, in kind of a fall-themed aspect. A lot of fall-themed artisans, or the artisans that we do have are going to bring a lot of their fall-themed items, as well.
Q: And it's going to be regular market hours?
Jolbert: Yeah; 9 to 1. So, it's four hours of compacted fun!
Q: And, certainly, because you have more people, I'm expecting you're going to be expanding the footprint further into the park.
Jolbert: We'll be utilizing most of the park. We did get permission to do that.
I have pumpkin painting. I have pumpkin bowling. All the kids activities are going to be towards the end of the market.
We're going to create like a “T.” So, you'll walk through that gravel path, which we’ll have about 26 vendors going down that path – 13 on either side – and then all the kids activities are going to be at the end of that, in the middle of the park.
Q: In addition to all the benefits you mentioned, all the fun things people can look forward to, will this festival also serve as a testing ground for new vendors for next year, or even new patrons who haven't been to the market before?
Jolbert: Yeah, absolutely.
Our market is inclusive to all of Western New York’s regions. We do have a lot of people coming from Erie County and Buffalo, vendor-wise, and some of them have already actually expressed interest in coming to the market next year, which is really exciting.
We, obviously, want to keep the integrity of the market and make sure that everyone is local, and also a producer only – so, you have to grow or make anything that you do sell at the market. But all of these vendors fit those requirements, which is really exciting.
The Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market Fall Festival is Oct. 7 at Academy Park. More information is available online at https://www.facebook.com/lewistonartisanmarket.