PLATTSBURGH - As many farmers markets wind down and close up shop for the season, one is just getting started.
Beth Spaugh, owner of Rehoboth Homestead in Peru, has organized an indoor farmers market to be held Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at the City Recreation Center on the PARC Oval. Inspiration for the market, said Spaugh, came from a group of farmers in Athens, Ga., who banded together several years ago to host an indoor market during the fall season. The most attractive feature of the market? Ordering is done on-line in advance.
"A person selling can go in on their own computer and list their products, put up photos of their products, describe them, set their own price, tell how many are available," explained Spaugh. "The market is open on-line for two days for people to put in their orders and is closed before the physical market opens."
The idea behind integrating on-line ordering into the indoor market, said Spaugh, is to reduce waste.
"That way, if a vendor is baking, they know just how much to bake and not baking things that won't sell," said Spaugh. "If I'm harvesting salad mix, I know just how much to harvest and I'm not harvesting more than I need one week and not having enough the next week."
"It's wonderful, from a business management standpoint," she added.
Even though the market is designed in a made to order fashion, Spaugh said there will likely still be goods available for those who haven't ordered in advance.
"The first two weeks, we'll have it set up like a regular farmers market, so that people can touch and feel and see and taste. And, some of our vendors will still do that on a regular basis," said Spaugh. "Some of them feel they generate sales if people can sample their products."
The benefits aren't only for the producers and vendors, said Spaugh. Consumers will also benefit from the ease of on-line ordering and in knowing they're receiving locally-produced items that are literally hand-picked for them.
"The person who does the primary grocery shopping can sit at home and look at the list and make their decisions about what they want to order and then if someone else in the household or a neighbor is more convenient to the Oval, that person can just take the payment and pick up their order," said Spaugh, who noted that would be of added convenience for people who travel from farther locations like Au Sable Forks and Jay to the south and Chazy and Chateaugay to the north.
"And, with having it on a Thursday, if you forget something or you find you need something else, you still have Friday to get it," noted Spaugh.
The whole business model for on-line ordering isn't something Spaugh is unfamiliar with, she said. Last year, she tested the waters using her business and found on-line ordering was convenient for many people.
"We had 10-12 orders a week," said Spaugh. "People were enthusiastic."
Sam Hendren, owner of Clover Mead Farm in Chesterfield, said he's looking forward to participating in the market, which already has several vendors lined up from northern Essex County to Franklin County and places in between.
In the absence of a local year-round farmers market, Hendren said he's been traveling more than 100 miles south - one way - to sell his cheeses and other goods at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.
"In the winter, I drive two and a half hours one way because there are no options up here besides my wholesale accounts, which aren't enough," admitted Hendren. "Downstate, a lot of the summer markets have gone to year-round. It's something that we have to move to up here also if we're going to expect small farmers like us to be able to survive."
"I think we have to develop winter markets and this is an interest attempt to do that," he added.
The Thursday market Spaugh is establishing could be a stepping stone to that, however, that ultimately depends on the reception it receives, she said.
"Right now, the market is just planned for the fall," said Spaugh.
The indoor farmers market will begin Nov. 18 and run Thursdays through Dec. 23. The exception will be the week of Thanksgiving, when the market will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 24. On-line orders may be placed at www.plattsburgh.locallygrown.net.
The market is still taking additional vendors, said Spaugh, particularly bread makers and meat vendors. Those interested in participating may contact Spaugh at 643-7822.