Pleasantville to Introduce Winter Farmers' Market

Local volunteers will form a non-profit to replace the role of Community Markets.

After a 15-year run, region market operator Community Markets and the Village of Pleasantvile will be splitting ways.

"We have had a long relationship with Community Markets and they have done a great job for us," reflected Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer. "What we would like to do is build on the strength we already have and have a little better control over the market."

While Ossining-based Community Markets oversees several other farmers' markets in the Westchester County area and beyond, the village and those involved in the seasonal offerings are looking to make it "more Pleasantville-centric," according to Peter Rogovin, chair of the all-volunteer Pleasantville Farmers' Market Committee.

The work Rogovin and his committee have put into the market over the last several years have made it "a destination," he said.

"Over time, this market has evolved into a really big market," said Rogovin, who—along with a group of village residents—will be forming a non-profit organization to oversee the market going forward in place of Community Markets. "We thought we were in a position to handle it better on our own."

Community Markets Marketing and Advertising Director Frankie Rowland said the organization is pleased with the work it has put into the market over the last decade-and-a-half.

"We appreciate working with them and we really feel that we have put forth our best effort," Rowland said. "Part of our mission is to really support local agriculture and local food. We feel we have been true to that and have also tried to satisfy the needs of Pleasantville shoppers and the community."

In addition to the village's and committee's desire to take more control over its outdoor seasonal market (which runs May through December annually), Rogovin said he has long asked to bring a winter market to the village.

Rowland said she spoke with the village a few years back about the possibility of a winter market, but, "At the time, there was no indoor space that was really feasible for the market...the conversation hit a wall at this point."

She added that Community Markets' research suggests that more than 30 percent of market shoppers end up stopping by because they can see the market.

"It's much harder...to build an indoor market," she said.

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Scherer said that while Community Markets used to offer a winter market "over in Briarcliff," he's personally excited to have the opportunity to frequent the vendors in the off-season closer to home.

"That's not only a great thing because there are a lot of people that want it, but it's a great thing because it takes our farm market—that we will now have control over—and give us essentially a 12-month presence," he said.

The winter market is slated to begin shortly after the village's three-year contract expires with Community Markets at the end of the year.

Starting Saturday, Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., residents can pick up seasonal fare from their favorite vendors at Pleasantville Middle School.

The village and new market non-profit organization will have a contract with the district (and each other) for the market this coming year for about a 19-week period, according to Rogovin.

"We have an understanding that it's a win-win for the community and for the schools," he said. "This is going to be the only farmers' market that I know of that is going to create revenue for the schools in excess of their incremental costs."

Rogovin added that the preliminary floor plan for the winter market, to be held in the school's multipurpose room, is "twice the size of the Chappaqua indoor market."

"Every vendor in our [current] market, with the exception of those who can't sell in the schools—we can't have alcohol sales in the schools—everyone wants in," he said.

The Pleasantville Farmers' Market Committee has also grown its non-vendor related happenings at the market over the years—introducing chef demonstrations, opportunities for community involvement (like tomorrow's apple pie baking contest) and kids' activities—something Rogovin said might be difficult to translate right away to the new winter market.

Another one of the committee's programs, a live music stand, have helped the market in more ways than one.

"Phelps Memorial Hospital was the sponsor of this year's music tent and we're appreciative of that," Scherer noted.

While this type of sponsorship helped offset the village's market spending (typically between $5,000 and $10,000 annually, he said), new leadership could help drive expenditures down further.

"What we are looking to do next year—and I think we will be able to achieve it—is reimburse the village for the relatively modest costs," he said. "We're at the point where the market is big enough and active enough and successful enough that the overhead costs can be covered by it."

At the end of the day, Rogovin and Scherer said they believe the change will be a beneficial one for the village and its markets.

"I think it's going to be a great opportunity to kind of cement the idea that Pleasantville is a place to come; not only for stuff you might by at the farm market, but for all the other things that you can do," Scherer said. "One of the reasons we got started with the market was to support the downtown and the local commercial district in general."

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