The Niagara Falls City Market is thrilled to announce the upcoming season, set to be its most vibrant and eventful yet. With an array of new vendors, engaging special events, extended operating hours, heightened safety protocols, and an abundance of locally sourced produce, the market aims to provide an experience for visitors and residents alike.Continue reading
NOVEMBER 4, 2022
NIAGARA FALLS, NY – Field & Fork Network, a statewide food and farming nonprofit was awarded over $245,000 to revitalize the Niagara Falls City Market. Field & Fork Network took over farmers market management this season with the goal of creating an accessible and equitable market; where food, culture and community can be celebrated.
The USDA grant will provide the necessary funding to strengthen operations, make capital improvements, recruit new vendors, support community events, and engage the community. The grant is a part of the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program, which awarded over $13 million to 55 organizations across the country, Field & Fork Network was one of only five in New York that was selected.
“Access to fresh, nutritious, locally-grown food shouldn’t be a luxury. The Niagara Falls City Market has been a fixture in the community for over 100 years and community groups are working diligently to reimagine the marketspace so it can improve the local food system and meet the needs of Western New Yorkers,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow Field & Fork Network to engage the Niagara Falls community, increase traffic at the market, enhance opportunities for new local vendors, and improve access to affordable and healthy food. This is another investment that will contribute to a healthier and stronger future for the Western New York community.”
The Niagara Falls City Market has been in existence since the horse-and-buggy days of the late 1800s. What once was a vibrant market full of diverse vendors has struggled in recent years. In 2018, residents, and other important partners developed the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan to improve the local food system; the number one priority of the Plan was revitalizing the City Market.
“After years of ineffective efforts to improve the City Market, our Administration took the necessary steps to bring in Field & Fork Network to enhance the farmer and vendor potential at the market and coupled with new facility management by Militello Property Group, we believe the future is bright for our market. Securing this grant will provide additional resources that Field & Fork Network can use to attract and develop more vendors and improve promotion of the market. We appreciate the efforts of the Field & Fork Network and look forward to our ongoing partnership.”
Since taking over the market this year, Field & Fork Network has laid the groundwork to improve community access to local fresh produce by implementing programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Double Up Food Bucks, a nutrition incentive program that offers low-income individuals’ money to purchase local fresh produce. Additionally, they have strengthened market opportunities for the vendors through special events and marketing support.
“It has been a long road but we are excited to be at the point we are now with the farmers market; building back this important community asset as a place to buy fresh and affordable produce and other locally-produced products,” said Tom Lowe, Project Director for the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan who is also responsible for managing the Niagara Falls City Market. “We look forward to the markets continued growth to better support the community it serves and the farmers and vendors who have devoted years of their business to this farmers market.”
“The Niagara Falls City Market is a cornerstone of the community and an important source of fresh, affordable, and local produce,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I congratulate the Field & Fork Network on receiving this well-deserved award and look forward to seeing the new and improved market in operation.”
Field & Fork Network intends to work with current vendors, City Officials, residents and other stakeholders to develop a vision for the market that is part of the City’s overall development for the Pine Avenue area. Anyone interested in learning more about this work or to engage in the larger work of the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan can learn more by visiting www.fieldandforknetwork.com. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Original Publisher: Niagara Gazette
Reporter: Mark Sheer
Artisan Day event brings signs of hope to Niagara Falls City Market
The SnobKnockers played outdoors at the Niagara Falls City Market on Friday.
Next door to them, in a trailer that serves as Lend a Leaf’s business on wheels, Jessica Nyland served specialty coffees and teas.
Nyland was part of a larger group of vendors — mostly made up of local farmers — who were selling apples and empanadas and chicken soup and all manner of food and homemade items along the brick-paved area beneath the awning where City Market sellers have been selling fresh produce and more to customers for years.
Friday’s festivities were part of an Artisan Market, a special event designed to breath more life into what has been a staple off Pine Avenue near 18th Street for, by most estimates at least 100 years, or at least more years than most people who still frequent the market can remember.
Sheri Senek’s family business, Senek Farms, which has been in business in Ransomville for a century now, has been a presence at the Falls market for decades. The Senek family truck makes an appearance each week, all year long.
To Senek, hearing the SnobKnockers play while watching more customers engage with a wider variety of vendors represented two things she’s wanted most for the market for many years: Signs of progress and hope.
“This is amazing,” said Senek, whose father-in-law, Senek Farms founder John Senek started the family tradition of selling produce at the Falls market decades ago. “This is what we’re hoping for. We’ve got new vendors that we’re hoping will continue to come.”
“This is what we do,” she added. “We’re farmers. We’ve always come here. We brought our produce to the city. This market has always been an important part of this community.”
Up until this year, the city market was managed, under a deal struck with Niagara Falls city government in 1999, by Lewiston businessman Al Muto. In May, city lawmakers, at the urging of Mayor Robert Restaino’s administration, agreed to buy Muto out of his market lease, which ran through July 2032, with an additional 44-year option that could have been extended to 2076.
City officials agreed to spend $2 million in American Rescue Plan funds to terminate the city’s lease with Muto Development and reacquire control of the market and six adjacent properties. They are now working with various partners in hopes of reimagining the space for vendors, tenants and local residents.
One main partner is the Field and Fork Network, Inc., a non-profit organization that works with communities in an effort to promote more sustainable food systems. The Falls City Council agreed in August to enter into a management agreement for the market with the organization. That same month, the Network announced that it had reached an agreement to allow city market vendors to accept Supplemental Nutrition Program, or SNAP benefits, more commonly known as food stamps.
Senek said it has been a big boost for farmers who frequent the market and for Falls residents who need access to fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables.
“It’s been a big benefit,” she said.
Tony Poletti, owner of the Marketside restaurant at the City Market and president of the Pine Avenue Redevelopment Project, Inc., a local group dedicated to reimagining the Pine Avenue commercial strip, said he’s hopeful better days are ahead for the market, mainly because it feels to him like the right organizations and people are now coming together to make it better.
“There’s a lot of good people that are focused on the right things so I have a positive outlook for the future of Pine Avenue and the city market,” said Poletti, who served chicken soup to customers during Friday’s event.
Nyland, a DeVeaux resident who started her coffee-and-tea-on-the-go business a year and a half ago, said she heard from a lot of market “regulars” who were excited to see more activity than they have seen in recent years. She said she’s looking forward to coming back in the future.
“It’s so nice to see people interacting with one another,” she said.
The SnobKnockers — a trio that includes local bed and breakfast owner Shelia Zuni, Michael Sheffield and George Kobas — entertained the market crowd throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
Zuni said the band would return to the market if invited and she hopes other local bands will begin to view the space as a place where they can — like the farmers and the vendors — engage with the community.
“There’s so much potential here,” she said.
Anne Marie DeRusso agrees.
The new director for the City Market helped organize Friday’s Artisan Day. While it is the final special event planned for 2022, DeRusso said Field and Fork Network and other partners intend to spend the winter months planning more events and, hopefully, more market improvements next year. She said part of the effort will involve exploring and promoting more of the market’s rich history.
“Mainly, it’s bringing business into the city, but it’s also getting good local produce into people’s hands,” she said.
How can people in and around Niagara Falls support the market moving forward?
DeRusso said, simply: Show up, not just on special event days but as frequently as possible.
“If we want the market to be successful, then we need people to come out,” she said.
Local Food Action Plan aims to bring healthy options to vulnerable neighborhoods of Niagara Falls to empower healthier food choices
Field & Fork Network has been awarded a $50,000 grant, from KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation, to propel a healthy corner store initiative that will bring healthy food options to the Niagara Falls community, while providing technical support to store owners and nutrition education to residents. The project will be nurtured by Healthy Food Healthy People, a work group that is focused on increasing food access by strengthening the local food system.
The grant, which gives back to First Niagara Foundation’s community roots, is part of KeyBank’s $40 billion National Community Benefits Plan which symbolizes their commitment to empowering individuals and neighborhoods through investment in programs that provide long term enhancement to their quality of life.
“The work that Field and Fork Network is doing to bring healthy and fresh food to all areas of our community is both important and transformational,” said Elizabeth Gurney, KeyBank Director of Corporate Philanthropy and Executive Director of the First Niagara Foundation. “We are so very supportive of their efforts and are proud to stand with them as they work to increase food access by strengthening the local food system.”
The healthy corner store initiative will not only encourage but give local businesses the tools to understand the importance as well as financial benefit to supporting fresh food sales. Residents will also be empowered to not only choose to eat healthy foods but have access to them, especially in those neighborhoods that may not have any other grocery options.
“We are so grateful for this funding from the First Niagara Foundation as it will allow for relevant stakeholders to come together to plan for and implement hyperlocal access to healthy food options in neighborhood-based corner stores, helping to alleviate transportation challenges, which is one of the largest barriers to accessing healthy food” said Tom Lowe, Project Director for the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan.
Healthy Food Healthy People started in 2013, and is comprised of over 35 community organizations and residents who have developed the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan to affect policy from the street up to government levels. The plan is strategically broken down into four key frameworks–agriculture, economic development, education, and healthy neighborhoods – each with several actionable and resident-driven objectives.
To read the full Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan and learn how to get involved in this or the other plan goals, visit https://bit.ly/NFfoodactionplan.