INNOVATION: A “Farmers’ Market” is an example of a new business model

This Market Stepped Up to Feed a Town With No Grocery Store
FEB 13, 2022
Robin Catalano 

  • In upstate New York, New Lebanon Farmers’ Market is filling a need and honing a model for others to follow.

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When Josh Young took over management of the decade-old New Lebanon Farmers Market (NLFM) in rural upstate New York in 2020, he needed to think creatively to mitigate the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He didn’t anticipate those efforts would result in a new hybrid market model that would garner a major grant from the USDA, and serve as a fresh-fare blueprint for food deserts.

Like many Northeastern towns that prospered during the Industrial Era, New Lebanon declined when the passenger rail shuttered in the 1950s. The town’s only grocery store closed more than a dozen years ago. Residents had resigned themselves to the 10-plus-mile haul for shopping.

As the coronavirus rocked the supply chain, Josh Young, a freelance software engineer, and his sister, Eleanor Young, who runs a butchery and sausage-making business, took the NLFM virtual, with online ordering and weekly pickup and deliveries. It was an immediate hit. 

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The Youngs are confident the New Lebanon Farmers Market can serve as a model for food deserts across the country. “Anyone can do this,” says Josh. “You can start small, and grow it a little bit every week. The next person to bootstrap an effort like ours will be able to point to us as an example in order to solicit capital for an even larger market.”

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Now I am not keen on the term “food deserts”, but I’d like to patronize their NLFM.  I find that “food” today doesn’t taste the same as when I was a kid.  I remember the rolls from the bakery more like what Ben Franklin described than the “hockey pucks” we buy today. 

I’ve read posts after posts in the survivalist sites about how crops are “poorer” in nutritional value from Big Ag than home grown “victory gardens”.

Maybe our taste buds are detecting that and telling our primal brain to forage elsewhere.