Ithaca, N.Y. — The Ithaca Farmers Market has had a bountiful year.
Here are 6 things we learned about the market in 2014 in an interview on Monday with market Manager Aaron Munzer:
1 — New attendance record
The market set a new record this July when 1,614 vehicles passed through in four hours one Saturday.
“That was definitely a record,” Munzer said.
Most weekends see somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 vehicles in four hours, Munzer said.
Munzer added he didn’t have precise numbers from previous years to compare with this year’s figures.
However, he said the increase in traffic was clear and substantial.
“Long-term, we’ve seen a lot of growth since the recession,” Munzer said, adding that the parking totals don’t account for those who bike to the market or those who park nearby and walk.
2 — Higher demand: More parking attendants
Up until this year, the market hired two parking attendants.
But city officials grew concerned that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate the demand, and so the staff that manages the market added four more parking attendants, bringing the total number to six.
3 — Winter market grows
One of the unexpected sources of growth has been that of the winter sales season, according to Munzer.
“Our shoulder-season markets are growing, too,” Munzer said.
Munzer said that the market has a sheltered pavilion and that GreenStar has allowed the market to operate out of that grocery store’s events hall, The Space.
He added that vendors have responded to the new demand by putting up more high tunnels and root cellars, “so you’ll see fresh greens pretty much the whole winter.” There are now around 500 weekly winter customers for the market, Munzer said.
The winter market had more interest from vendors than space for them in 2014, Munzer said. (Winter hours are Jan. 10 through March 28 on Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
4 — The International Rutabaga Curling World Championship
The Ithaca Farmers Market will be soon holding its 17th annual International Rutabaga Curling World Championship, in which contestants hurl the root vegetable.
“Yes, we hurl cruciferous vegetables,” Munzer said. “It gets crazy.”
The idea began, Munzer said, on the last day of the market 17 years ago because attendance was so low.
Now, the International Rutabaga Curling World Championship is a well-attended event drawing more than 500 people annually. Two years ago, a film crew from Japan captured the event.
“It’s cool — it’s gone from being absolutely no customers in the pavilion to literally having people from Tokyo come,” Munzer said. “We expect it to be just as crazy this year.”
5 — Growth despite other festivals
Munzer said that the market used to see a decrease in attendance when Ithaca’s other festivals were held.
This is no longer the case.
“For Ithaca Festival, it was barren,” Munzer said, “But now Ithaca Festival, GrassRoots, Apple Festival all mean that we see just as many attendees or more … we’re a constant alternative to whatever else is going on.”
6 — Beneficiary of Commons construction?
Merchants have lamented the pace of construction on the Commons, saying that it’s hurting pedestrian traffic downtown.
Munzer said he believes some of those who are not going to the Commons are coming to the farmers market.
“I think some of the traffic that the Commons normally absorbs has been absorbed by the market: that’s pretty clear to us,” Munzer said.