While unable to match the specific years with the locations, Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Treasurer Sharon Brent on Tuesday confirmed that the operation featuring the “fruits” of local growers’ and merchants’ labor has been quite nomadic over the past decade and a half.
Brent, asked to comment on Market Manager Elizabeth Carr’s assertion that the market has moved 11 times in 15 years, fired off close to that many sites -- and agreed with Carr, who spoke at Monday night's Batavia City Council meeting, that moving around so much is counterproductive.
“We were out at the (Batavia) Downs and at Kmart for quite a few years. While we have been under the city’s (oversight), we were moved 11 times in 15 years. I have been to every single spot they’ve moved us to,” said Brent, a Middleport resident who owns Schwab Farm Market in Gasport.
The list of farmers’ market locations, according to Brent, include next to the “kiddie stand” at Batavia Downs (for years), the Kmart parking lot, Batavia Downs parking lot, the Alva Place parking lot (previously), the former Super Duper site next to Washington Towers, the parking lot where Wendy’s Restaurant now sits, the Angotti Beverage parking lot and in a lot behind the Genesee County Courts Facility.
“We used to be in this (Alva Place) parking lot when we had an afternoon market that was from noon to 6 p.m.,” she said. “Since then we’ve moved all around the city … and you don’t build a market that way.”
And Brent echoed Carr’s hope that City Council would keep the farmers’ market at its current location: the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.
“Of all the places we have been in the city, other than where Wendy’s is right now, this is the best spot we’ve been at – as far as customers liking it, parking, traffic, everything,” she said.
Brent said she wasn’t about “to buck” the city but said she’s talked to many residents who “can’t believe they want to put a police station here.”
When asked if the farmers’ market carried any weight into City Council decisions, considering it uses the parking lot at no charge, she said her organization was not given an opportunity for input.
“We were told this is where the police station is going to be,” she said. “Did they ask us if we wanted it to be here? No. I don’t live in the city, but I can see that they want you to play nice.”
She said that city residents should have a say in the matter, something that City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said has happened by virtue of a police facility task force that convened in 2015.
“We set up a police building committee years ago of citizens of the community and we left them alone to make recommendations. They recommended a Swan Street location and the second choice was Alva Place parking lot,” he said. “The first choice fell through as the owners didn’t want to sell it to us, so the second location on that list was Alva Place.”
Jankowski said City Council is following the task force’s recommendations.
“It’s property we already own … and we will need it in another year or so when we start construction on that building,” he added. “City Council makes the executive decisions and run the City of Batavia through the city manager. If they have a problem, contact City Council.”
Jankowski said he is disappointed in the farmers’ market stance.
“We notified everybody and the time to make mention of it was several months ago before we expended a lot of resources into that direction (a feasibility study) to put the police department there,” he said. “Even so, it’s a public safety building, it’s public property that we own, and we allow the market to have an event there every year. They fill out an event application and it gets approved because the lot is not being used right now.”
He said he didn’t think there were any promises made to the market, adding that its attempt to attract a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant fell through.
The thought of the city veering off the course of placing the new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot is not a good idea, Jankowski said.
“If we had to spend $500,000 for a (privately owned) building lot, that would reduce the amount of money available for the building itself,” he said.
Jankowski said the city has offered to help the farmers’ market find a suitable permanent location, and welcomes the conversation.
“I think it’s actually a good thing that we’re having this conversation because it tells me that our downtown is thriving and it tells me that property in our downtown is at a premium and that people want it because it is a good thing,” he offered. “But I think the farmers’ market is a little out of line because they have been getting the use of that property at no cost and now we need the property for a public safety building and now they’re upset about it.”
Brent said if the market has to move again, she hopes that the location is in the center of the city and “not off the beaten path.”
A call to Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, for comment on the BID’s role in the future of the farmers’ market was not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Kemp also sits on the Genesee Country Farmers' Market Board of Directors.
The 2020 farmers’ market season opened on June 5 and the three-day operation (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday) concludes this week.