Speaking on behalf of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, Batavian Elizabeth “Betty” Carr tonight asked City Council to rethink its position on placing a new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot, proposed action that would force the market to – once again – find a new location.
“I’m here tonight to ask for your help. I’d like to find a path forward to keep the market at the current site, so I’m here to ask your guidance and consideration to agreeing that the police department should find a different home,” said Carr, manager of the downtown seasonal operation, during Council's Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room.
Carr mentioned that the market has moved 11 times in the past 15 years and that it takes at least two years “to ramp back up to full capacity.”
Stating that she is “excited” to live in Batavia, Carr said she wants to help Batavia craft its “ideal market, which I see as a diamond in the rough.”
“I can help build strategic relationships and garner fresh funds. I’m asking each of you for open dialogue so we can work collaboratively together on this,” she said.
Carr also spoke about two New York State food stamp programs that are helping the farmers’ market gain new customers and helping residents -- especially those with low incomes -- buy fresh produce and other homemade items while stretching their food dollars.
“Each of you has in front of you survey results from Field & Fork Network, which is a New York State food stamp program,” she said to the council members. “Field & Fork is trending for doubling, even tripling, some numbers this year. These results show that 73 percent of our customers walk or bike to the market, including senior citizens who enjoy their independence by shopping at the market – using their walkers and motorized scooters.”
She said that food stamp recipients come to the market’s information booth where Carr electronically removes money from their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and gives them silver coins for fruits and vegetables only and wood coins for produce and everything else being sold.
The “everything else” items include meat, cheese, bread, honey, maple syrup, olive oil, flavored vinegar, baked goods, canned goods and jams and jellies, she said.
Carr also informed the board about the “Double Up Food Bucks” program that matches up to $20 a day so EBT customers can afford to buy produce.
“The wins are threefold,” she said. “Low income folks are eating better. Our local farmers are gaining new customers and they keep more money. The best part is our food dollars are staying in the region.”
She maintained that moving the market would hurt Batavia.
“Frankly, your farmers are weary of rebuilding from scratch,” she said. “Will you provide the guidance and help make the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street the market’s forever home?”
While no council member addressed her comments during the meeting, afterward Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he was surprised by Carr’s position on the proposed location of a new police station.
“We did a feasibility study on that lot months ago and at that time we notified the mall (merchants), BID (Business Improvement District) people and the farmers’ market – making sure we didn’t affect the mall’s parking spaces – and apparently everyone was on board until tonight,” he said. "We even said we would help the market find a new place."
Jankowski said city officials looked into a few privately owned locations in the city and found that the going rate to purchase those parcels was around $500,000.
“It makes more sense to put the building on city properly centrally located, which is what most people are calling for,” he said. "We save $500,000 right off the bat, the location makes it easy for police officers to access and is not on either side of the city.”