From harvest to hand: Local farmers cultivate fresh connections at Geneseo Farmers Market

From any vantage point on campus, farmers' fields and pastures dominate views of the Genesee Valley. The Geneseo Farmers Market gives students a chance to interact with some of the previously unfamiliar farmers who populate the landscape. The market boasts a wide variety of farms, from large to small, established to new.

Senior Melissa Graham is a living testament to the connection between farmers and the campus community. She spent the summer working as assistant manager for the Geneseo Farmers Market and received a $5,000 ambassadorship grant from Geneseo's Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership to assist in the expansion of five area farmers markets.

Her plan for expansion involved advertising, hosting incentive days and collecting feedback from farmers. Graham worked to attract people of lower socioeconomic status who receive farmers market-specific “nutrition checks” in order to encourage healthy eating habits and increase revenue for farmers.

“The market is a way for [farmers] to directly reach their customers,” Graham said. “There's no middle man. It's from harvest to hand … and it's a social experience.”

Phillips Farm

Donna Phillips, a retired City of Rochester Schools administrator, started Phillips Farm in 2006. Located in Stafford, N.Y., Phillips runs the farm entirely on her own, growing certified organic heirloom vegetables and making her own compost-based fertilizer. Phillips said she was surprised by how enjoyable she has found selling her produce at the Geneseo Farmers Market for the past two years.

“I help [students] learn how to cook recipes [with my produce],” she said. “There's a lot of energy at this market.”

Moondance Gardens

For the past two years, David and Cecelia Deuel have sold produce out of their expanded garden in York, N.Y. They recently began selling raspberries and maple syrup along with their large collection of vegetables. “We really like meeting the people and discussing with them how we raise our produce. We think that the consumer likes to talk with the farmer face to face,” David Deuel said.

Pleasantview Farms

Pleasantview Farms in Piffard, N.Y. is composed of 40 acres of farmland that has been in owner Jon Arney's family since 1830.

“You can find 90 percent of what you'd find at stores like Wegmans or Tops or Wal-Mart in our booth because I grow it all,” said Arney. Arney sells an assortment of nuts, every variety of apple, blueberries, pears and squash among a host of other produce. He sells at five other local markets each week.

“I work seven days a week, 12 hours a day from March to October,” Arney said.

Honeyhill Farms

Livonia, N.Y. native Fred Forsburg left a large farmers market in Rochester to bring his certified organic produce from Honeyhill Farms to the Geneseo Farmers Market. Honeyhill Farms' principle crop is garlic, but Forsburg also sells a variety of vegetables as well as free-range beef.

“I have great fun with the students. I like badgering them into eating tomatoes when they claim they don't like them,” he said. “This is sort of my socialization. I'm stuck on the farm all week and I love it, but I don't see people.”

The market is open every Thursday from 3-6 p.m. on the corner of Main and Center Streets.