The Central Region New York Farmers’ Market is open between the months of May-October
If you are a resident of central New York state, you may very well know about the Central Region New York Farmers’ Market, which has been a fixture in the community for almost 100 years. Part of what makes the CRNYFM unique is that it has served as a centralized location for farmers to sell their produce daily during the fresh market months of May-October. This is different from many other markets around the country, which tend to only be open on weekends. Located in the Northeast, the CRNYFM is also the main fresh market for Seal the Seasons farmers Tony Emmi and Bryan Reeves. Outside of being a marketplace, however, the CRNYFM is also a source of community activism, working with local schools, and regularly sending busses of their produce into areas that are traditionally billed as food deserts.
Back in mid to late September, Seal the Seasons’ Patrick Mateer got the chance to catch up with the executive director of the Central Region NY Farmers’ Market, Amanda Vitale. Together, they had a brief discussion about the market’s history, its operations, how they have been affected by COVID-19, and a whole host of topics.
Let’s start learning about the market today – how many growers do you work with? When does the market operate? How many approx. visitors do you have per week? Does your market have more than just open-air direct marketing?
AV: Things look very different these days in COVID. We aren’t seeing a big difference in vendors or shoppers though. We have 450 stalls for fresh growers. We run May-Oct, every stall is under license, sometimes under sub-licenses where more than 1 vendor uses a stall. On a day to day basis, they have 10-30 daily vendors that walk up and are placed into stalls that are vacant. 400 stalls filled every Saturday. Some vendors have up to 11 stalls! Everything from backyard growers to major producers
Additionally, we have a wholesale market with 3-4 large wholesales in operation. This goes into schools and grocery stores and roadside stands.
The 400 stalls are a wide variety of products. We have baked goods, prepared foods, canned foods, liquors, wines, beers, all kinds of crafts. All of our vendors are local producers.
What makes the Central Region Market special? What’s your mission?
AV: The mission of our market is to provide opportunities for local agriculture. We try to give back to the community and create a space that builds community. We do that in a lot of ways. We do a lot of events here. Farmers market, flea market, community center, we really just try to do activities and function in a way that helps the community. Even if it’s as simple as fresh produce.
We’ve had a mobile market that goes out to food deserts as well. Multiple programs that give back to the community. We are a non for profit. We really want to give back.
During COVID, the farmers market is the main focus. Want to keep the open-air safe environment.
Tell me about your market’s history. How did the market get started? Who was influential in bringing it together?
AV: The market was brought together with legislation in 1935. It brought together the Genisisee Valley Regional Market and the Central Region NY Farmers Market. Construction was a WPA project to put people back to work after the war. Three of our buildings were moved from downtown Syracuse prior to 1935. We opened our doors on April 1, 1938. We have been around for quite a while. In 99/00 we did a big restoration project – fire damage, stuff had happened. Restoration restored the facility to what it looked like in 1938. We built a new building in 2013 – the largest and newest building. It has opened its doors to concerts and other larger events. In years before we did community events in the parking lot and [the market] has a history as a community space.
Amanda Vitale, Executive Director for CRNYFM, got her start as a temp worker that was covering for another employee on maternity leave.
Tell me about your personal path to the CNY market – why are you so passionate about local family farms and their delicious produce?
AV: My dad was the previous ED; he was a 3rd generation dairy producer. He left this business and started in produce. They have a 300-acre farm with produce and cash crop. My upbringing was going to market 3-4 days a week, on the farm all the time, surrounded by nature. I began working here out of college. Started as a part-time temp, covering for a new mom. She tried new positions little by little, then applied for the ED position when it opened up. She’s always been passionate about farming having grown up on a farm.
Tell me about some of your best growers, any memorable personalities? What makes them stand apart from other growers across New York?
AV: This is a hard one! We have so many great growers. Emmi Farms and Reeves have been here for a very long time. They are part of a cooperation with the largest growers in the area. Their family had the ability to expand the farm, expand the customer base, have their product in grocery stores.
Some of our vendors have been here since the opening of 1938. Some of our smaller vendors only have 10-15 acres. We have a strong customer base and a special product. Some farms have as low as five acres, others are as large as 300 acres.
Emmi and Reeves just have the drive. It’s been instilled in their families throughout the years to keep up the standard that their family has set throughout the years. The quality of the product you provide is the most important thing, whether you have 1 acre or 400 acres. If the quality isn’t there, the customer isn’t.
Seal the Seasons farmers such as Bryan Reeves (Center Left) are regular fixtures at the Central Region New York Farmers’ Market
We partner with Reeves Farm to purchase fresh New York Strawberries. How long has Reeves farm been with you all? Why do shoppers keep coming back to the Reeves market stand? What makes them different?
AV: Not sure how long Reeves has been here. Reeves has 3-4 stalls, and Emmi has the same. How the farms communicate depends on the farm. They have large banners on their stall or truck that signifies who they are. Farmers are super proud of their farm names and who they are. Some farmers have restored antique trucks so you know who is here depending on the vehicles. Customers look for these vehicles.
Let’s end with a favorite market story you haven’t told me – or an example of how your growers have come together to collaborate on a problem they all faced?
AV: The best part about working here is no day is ever the same. The variety of people we work with makes it crazy every day. Some days good, some days bad. We’ve had wild stories, hard to pinpoint something specific.
When we constructed our new building, we had to build a 3.5MM building with 1.5MM and we faced a short deadline to finish it by May 1st. a lot of vendors had sold in that parking lot under tents, they worked with the market for years to stick around and keep going to build something awesome that they could sell in. Everyone just had to trust that it would happen.
The Central Region New York Farmers’ is open between the months of May-October and can be found at
2100 Park St.
Syracuse NY, 13208
Though the marketplace is not currently open, individuals still interested in purchasing produce from Tony Emmi or Bryan Reeves can do so with their frozen option provided by Seal the Seasons, now available at Wegman’s locations throughout New York and New Jersey.