Grant Street is getting a Farmer’s Market, thanks to the efforts of Providence Farm Collective (PFC). This is huge news for Grant Street – a commercial district that has always prided itself as a “market district.” Grant Street not only happens to be the current home of the West Side Bazaar (for now), it is also home to numerous ethnic markets owned and operated by some of the city’s newest immigrant and refugee residents.
Establishing a new farmer’s market on Grant Street will do wonders for the district. As the West Side Bazaar transitions over to Niagara Street, the farmer’s market will help to fill that gap. Plus, the farmer’s markets can essentially be considered pseudo incubators for small start-up food enterprises that are looking to test out their products, while seeking additional customer bases.
PFC is managing to create the market with the help of $477,000 in funding from the Farmers Market Promotion Program grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
I recently wrote about the Providence Farm Collective, and its mission to provide refugees, low-income, and disenfranchised community members with land to grow produce. The new market will fulfill the dreams of many of these farmers, who will have an outlet closer to their homes. As for target customers, the goods sold at the market will cater to the needs and wants of the Black community, and refugees from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Liberia. The market will, of course, welcome the entire WNY community to shop for items that they might not otherwise find at other regional farmer’s markets.
The west side farmers market will provide a location for PFC farmers to sell their niche, traditional crops—including African maize, amaranth, roselle, hot peppers, African and Asian eggplants.
The Grant Street farmer’s market will be managed fulltime by Hamadi Ali of the Somali Bantu community. Ali is being promoted through the ranks of PFC, which means that he is intimately familiar with the incubator farms and the non-profit’s summer youth employment programs.
“PFC reconnects refugees and immigrant communities with access to farmland as they build their new life in the United States,” said Ali, who spent a decade at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya before emigrating to Buffalo, where he would earn degrees at ECC and Buffalo State before getting his Master’s in Economics from UB . “This grant will enable PFC to grow relationships with wholesalers, partner non-profits, and local food pantries. The result will be a source of income for PFC’s farmers and improved access to healthy, culturally-relevant, and affordable foods for community members facing food insecurity.”
During the course of the summer, PFC farmers will receive training and technical assistance to promote and sell their produce to historically under-resourced communities in Western New York.
As for the future of the Providence Farm Collective, it currently leases the 37-acre farm in Orchard Park. But through a collaboration with the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC), they have launched a joint $2.3 million capital campaign to “Plant the Future of Farming.” The funding would allow PFC to not only purchase the land, it would also allow for the addition of needed facilities. In order to protect the farm’s future, The Land Conservancy will place a conservation easement on the farm in perpetuity. The deadline for the campaign is December 31, 2022 – click here to learn more, and to donate to the worthy cause.
“Last season, PFC’s farmers expressed a desire to have a farmers market that would allow each of the Collective’s 16+ farms to sell fresh food directly to their community,” said PFC Executive Director Kristin Heltman-Weiss. “This grant is a step toward the realization of that dream. Although the focus for 2022 is on establishing the market, in future years we hope to welcome other nonprofits as vendors and incorporate cultural activities and celebrations. As a grassroots organization that values the leadership of our farmers, their direction and input on this will define next steps.”
The market model will scale PFC’s produce development for food banks and non-profit organizations that directly serve low-income, food insecure communities, according to its organizers and supporters.
Ultimately, the farmer’s market will not only address food insecurity, it will also incorporate a “learn, do, teach” approach.
“If you give a person a fish, you feed him/her for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed him/her for a lifetime.”
The market will be open from the end of June to October 2022.
Lead image by Brendan bannon