May 21—The region's newest farmers market will make its debut from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at 8498 State Route 7 in Schenevus.
The inaugural Eastern Otsego Farmers Market will feature produce, goods and wares from 25 area vendors, including Two Pods in a Pea, Awestruck Ciders, Cooperstown Maple Works, Katastrophic Visions, Elm Creek Farm and Heart to Home Decor.
The market is the brainchild of Worcester resident Josh Taylor, who will serve as the market manager.
"The inspiration came from the fact that this is a food desert — an area where people have limited access to a variety of healthful foods. I wanted to alleviate that," Taylor said. "Worcester and Schenevus are a bit of a drive in either direction to the nearest supermarket. We'd like to be a hub for local people to obtain fresh, local and healthy foods."
"People don't always want to go to Cooperstown — it's a zoo in the summertime, and the prices reflect the market that they're catering to," Taylor said. "Here, people can at least come down the road from where they live. It's right between these two towns, so we can pull from the towns, the little hamlets and beyond."
The market is intended to herald a new beginning, a fresh springtime start for a region frozen by COVID restrictions.
"Everybody's been cooped up for a while and they're really hurting," Taylor said. "My heart and soul has always been in the restaurant business. Mom-and-pop places are where I patronize, and this is kind of an extension of that: the cottage industries, the food producers and the artisans alike. They've seen a terrible year, so how can I give back? The answer was 'build them a market.'"
Taylor, a New York City native who recently relocated from down south to his wife's upstate hometown, teamed up to manage the market with fellow Worcester resident Rebekah Hopkins, who co-owns Freestyle Confections with her husband, Vincent.
The Hopkins family are seasoned market vendors themselves, making regular appearances at farmers markets in Delhi, Milford and beyond since their home-based bakery's founding in 2018.
"Each market has its own individual character, and you have to respect the different managers and their rules," Hopkins said. "It takes a lot to learn that stuff. It's been really fun, but it's not as simple as maybe some people think it is."
Taylor will have a booth as "the Food Dude," offering cooking tips, recipe ideas and general kitchen advice.
"My life's study is people, culture and food. Food is who I am and what I do," said Taylor, who works in human relations for French cookware company Le Creuset. "People know me as 'the food guy,' so they can come to me with their purchase and say, 'What do I do with this? Give me some recipes.' I'm kind of a walking encyclopedia of food knowledge, so I want to pass that on to people and give back a lot of what I've been given over the years."
"I love farmers markets and I've been to farmers markets all over the world," he continued. "There's always an old woman behind the counter, and you always call them Granny, whether they're your grandmother or not. It's always, 'Granny, what do I do with this?' I wished there was more of that, so that's why I'm bringing this interactive spirit to the market."
Taylor, a former food writer for a South Carolina newspaper, said he spent several years learning the finer points of market management from his assignments at a southern farmers market that was open eight months out of the year.
"You know, 'be the change you want to see' — I'm bringing the change I want to see to Worcester," he said. "I really watched what I loved and what I didn't like, and I took my inspiration from there and created something of my own."
Situated on a vacant Schenevus farmstead just off Interstate 88, the market will have use of the field and the barn, Taylor said. Plans are in the works to host cooking classes, entrepreneurial workshops and a vendor incubator program.
"If somebody comes to us with an idea, we take them under our wing, shadow them with other vendors, we have them learn the ropes, and then they'll be able to successfully set up a booth and be their own vendors," Taylor said. "It may seem really easy: just set up a table and plop down some produce, but it's not that simple. There's certain skills and nuances to it, and we want to teach them all that."
The farmers market is a nonprofit endeavor, Taylor said. "We are taking zero dollars. We are operating on a shoestring, and every penny that comes in will go back into the market, for performers, for activities, for anything."
Taylor's 9-year-old daughter, Delilah, and Hopkins' 12-year-old daughter, Emerson, are also teaming up to host a homemade craft booth.
"We're unique in the sense that we're having educational classes; we're teaching kids how to be little entrepreneurs," Hopkins said. "There's just so many ideas we have that are coming."
The market will feature weekly live music performances throughout its May-through-October season, Taylor said. Also available will be a regular spate of kids' activities, and a local woodworker is providing cornhole sets.
"We don't want this to be like a county fair, but it's going to be a carnival," Hopkins said. "That makes us a little bit different."
For more information and updates, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow "Eastern Otsego Farmers Market" on Facebook.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213.