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Movers of the soil: Farmers of the Rochester Public Market

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The Rochester Public Market on North Union Street is one of the region's liveliest, most entertaining community gathering places, attracting tens of thousands of people every week, May through October.

Operated at this site by the City of Rochester since 1905, the market's open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays year round. And this summer, it celebrates completion of an $8.5 million renovation, including a new enclosed structure for vendors. Ribbon cutting for the renovation will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 12.

Gary Eaton, of Eaton Farms. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Gary Eaton, of Eaton Farms.

The nine-acre complex serves as a marketplace offering everything from fresh produce, poultry, and seafood to specialty foods, kitchen supplies, and wine. It's an event space for concerts, food tastings, movies, plant sales, garage sales, and Food Truck Rodeos.

Ginny Eaton and her husband Gary (seen on the cover of this issue), of Eaton Farms in Ontario, sell all types of fruits and vegetables and also an assortment of flowers. On market days, they get up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to Rochester by 4:30 a.m. - “You get up and get washed and get coffee.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Ginny Eaton and her husband Gary (seen on the cover of this issue), of Eaton Farms in Ontario, sell all types of fruits and vegetables and also an assortment of flowers. On market days, they get up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to Rochester by 4:30 a.m. “You get up and get washed and get coffee.”

The heartbeat of the market, though, are the men, women, and children who work the region's fields, orchards, and vineyards, rise early on market days, and bring the results of that labor to provide food for Rochester homes and businesses.

Meg Davis and her husband Paul Watson have been selling annuals, perennials, herbs, seasonal produce, and Christmas greenery at the market for nearly 10 years. Watson’s family has been a staple at the market, operating as a vendor for nearly 45 years: - “You get to make people really happy with what you provide for them. They come back again and again.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Meg Davis and her husband Paul Watson have been selling annuals, perennials, herbs, seasonal produce, and Christmas greenery at the market for nearly 10 years. Watson’s family has been a staple at the market, operating as a vendor for nearly 45 years: “You get to make people really happy with what you provide for them. They come back again and again.”
PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
Lucas Welker, who is 7 years old, and his 12-year-old cousin Abraham Amsler both live in Walworth and help operate the Amsler family farm, Oldhome Farm. - Lucas gets up at 6 a.m. to make it to the market for what he calls the “second shift.” Abraham has to get up at 2:30. Lucas and Abraham finished their chores in the dairy barn, which included milking cows, around 10 p.m. the night before. “You get to help out and people get the stuff they need.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Lucas Welker, who is 7 years old, and his 12-year-old cousin Abraham Amsler both live in Walworth and help operate the Amsler family farm, Oldhome Farm.Lucas gets up at 6 a.m. to make it to the market for what he calls the “second shift.” Abraham has to get up at 2:30. Lucas and Abraham finished their chores in the dairy barn, which included milking cows, around 10 p.m. the night before. “You get to help out and people get the stuff they need.”
Abraham Amsler - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Abraham Amsler
The Rochester Public Market on North Union Street is one of the region’s liveliest, most entertaining community gathering places, attracting tens of thousands of people every week, May through October. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The Rochester Public Market on North Union Street is one of the region’s liveliest, most entertaining community gathering places, attracting tens of thousands of people every week, May through October.
Henry Swarey has been selling baked goods at the Rochester Public Market for nearly seven years. Swarey’s bakery, which is based in Seneca Lake, is a popular stop at the market. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Henry Swarey has been selling baked goods at the Rochester Public Market for nearly seven years. Swarey’s bakery, which is based in Seneca Lake, is a popular stop at the market.
PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER

The people

Average number of farmers on Saturday, May-October: 45

Number of vendors of all types: 300-320

Estimated number of customers per week May-October: 25,000-40,000

Number of Public Market staff: 5.5

Estimated number of languages spoken at the Market on an average Saturday: 30 (based on a decade-old study)

Number of special events in 2017: 47 free events sponsored by the Market, plus two privately sponsored, ticketed events – Foodlink's Festival of Food and the Flour City Brewers Fest – with admission fees

Cost to rent vendor space in unenclosed sheds in September: $20 on Tuesday, $40 on Thursday, $80 on Saturday

Cost to rent space in enclosed shed: $250 to $375 per month

Leah Ou, a Chinese Pipa player, said a lot of market goers stop by to ask her about her instrument, which is a four-stringed, pear-shaped string instrument from China. - “I like it. People are friendly." - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Leah Ou, a Chinese Pipa player, said a lot of market goers stop by to ask her about her instrument, which is a four-stringed, pear-shaped string instrument from China. “I like it. People are friendly."
PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
Bluesman John McClary, who has been playing guitar since he was 7 years old, plays at the market most Saturdays: - “Sometimes I come on Thursday, but ain’t nothing happening.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Bluesman John McClary, who has been playing guitar since he was 7 years old, plays at the market most Saturdays: “Sometimes I come on Thursday, but ain’t nothing happening.”
John Howard, owner-operator of Howard’s Heritage Berry Farm in Oakfield, practices his guitar at his berry stand in between customers: - “I’m not supposed to play the guitar to bring customers in. I’m just practicing.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • John Howard, owner-operator of Howard’s Heritage Berry Farm in Oakfield, practices his guitar at his berry stand in between customers: “I’m not supposed to play the guitar to bring customers in. I’m just practicing.”

The Market complex

Hours of operation: Tuesday and Thursday, 6 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, 5 a.m.-3 p.m. year round

Public Market size: 9 acres

Number of Market buildings: Six; three covered outdoor sheds, one indoor shed, the market's office building, restroom and storage building

Renovation cost: $8.5 million

Size of new indoor shed: 13,000 square feet

The renovations include this enclosed shed, additional outdoor shed, and four repurposed shipping containers. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The renovations include this enclosed shed, additional outdoor shed, and four repurposed shipping containers.

Public Market history

1905: First city-operated Public Market on North Union Street opened

1930 (approximately): Main, curved, outdoor A shed constructed

1963: The original covered shed, erected in 1905, demolished

1970's: Outdoor Shed C and first enclosed shed built

2016-2017: Original enclosed shed demolished and new structures built: enclosed shed, additional outdoor shed, and four repurposed shipping containers

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
Frank An, who operates Great Ocean Seafood, took over the fish stand when his father died nearly five years ago. Working the stand brings him closer to his father, he says, and the children who stop by the stand, in awe of the fish, bring him joy: - “Kids are always fun. They always walk by and stop – amazed at the fish, I guess.” - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Frank An, who operates Great Ocean Seafood, took over the fish stand when his father died nearly five years ago. Working the stand brings him closer to his father, he says, and the children who stop by the stand, in awe of the fish, bring him joy: “Kids are always fun. They always walk by and stop – amazed at the fish, I guess.”
PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER

The Rochester Public Market is a hot spot for fresh, local foods, merchandise, and independent businesses. But the market also hosts a wide array of free-admission special events, from film screenings to food trucks to live music. With about 40 separate events for from now through September, the market offers many opportunities for free, family fun. And it's the site of two big, popular ticketed events sponsored by outside groups: Flour City Brewers Fest and Foodlink's Festival of Food.

The summer's events:

– by Victoria Martinez

Food Truck Rodeos: An average of 30 food trucks, trailers, and carts; local brews from Rohrbach Brewing Company, and live music. 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays June 28, July 26, August 30, September 27. Free shuttle from East End Garage to the market available 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Fast Forward Environmental Films: Short environmental films submitted to the 2017 Fast Forward Film Festival. Friday, June 30, 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Flavors of Rochester at the Market: Samplings of cuisine from Rochester's international Sister Cities. Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon, May to September.

Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables: Foodlink nutrition experts hosting live, hourly nutrition demos and samplings. Thursdays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May-September.

Community Garage Sales: Dozens of garage sales, all in one place. Sundays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; August 6, 13, 20, 27; September 10, 24

Bands on the Bricks: Performances by national and local groups Fridays 6 to 10 p.m. July 14, 21, 28; August 4, 11.

Gospel Jubilee: Inspirational music by local groups, organized by the Elim Sanctuary Choir. Sunday, July 30, 4 to 7 p.m.

Flour City Brewers Fest: Sampling from hundreds of craft beers from local, regional and state breweries. Cider and wine tastings, music, and food trucks. 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, August 18.Ticketed.

Bike-in Movie: Ride your bike to the market for a bike-related outdoor movie. Friday, August 25, 7 to 10 p.m.

Artist Row: Works by more than 180 artists. Sunday, September 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Festival of Food: More than 100 restaurants, specialty food vendors, wineries, and breweries at Foodlink's big annual fundraiser. September 18.

Susan B. and Frederick D. Night: Screenings of documentaries, "Because of Women Like Her" and "Rediscovering Frederick Douglass." Friday, September 22, 8 to 10 p.m.

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