Farmers, markets feeling pinch

Dale Haas of Haas Farms in Red Creek is one of the vendors who frequents the Oswego Farmers Market every Thursday. He said he’s noticed a lighter crowd in the last few weeks.

OSWEGO — With the sun peeking through the buildings on West First Street and the temperatures hovering in the mid-70s, Tim Fowler knew the weather wasn’t to blame.

Fowler, who operates Maple Hollow Farm on County Route 85 in Hannibal, had maple syrup and eggs for sale at the Oswego Farmers Market, which is hosted by the Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce and takes place every Thursday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

With new restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fowler and other vendors have noticed smaller crowds to begin the market season in the Port City.

“A nice night like this, it seems like there should be more people,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he normally goes to farmers markets in Fulton and Syracuse as well as Oswego, but chose to stay home from the others this season. Instead, his business at home has seen more traffic, possibly because people are looking to avoid large crowds.

“The business has been really good at the house since the pandemic hit,” Fowler said. “We’ve been a lot busier at the house. A lot of maple producers I’ve talked to said the same thing. Their sales are doubled compared to usual.”

Bill Smithers has run Bom-Pa’s Country Recipes out of Fulton since he retired, and has brought his jams, jellies, condiments and pickled products to the farmers market for the last several years.

“It’s been pretty slow,” Smithers said. “It’s been steady, but it’s not as fast as it’s been the last couple years.”

Jim Howard of Hives of Howard in Oswego had a table set up with his honey to sell like he has since the 1990s. He believes the later start to the season and people’s hesitancy to go out in public has led to smaller crowds and less vendors this year.

The farmers market held a “pre-order to pick-up” market in June as the first phase of reopening. The Oswego and Fulton YMCAs acted as pick-up locations after patrons would buy their produce ahead of time.

The more traditional market restarted in Oswego on July 9. Vendors are spaced further apart, masks are worn and other precautions have been taken.

“We have not had anywhere near the number of people out, but that’s the way the pandemic is. You’re not supposed to be out,” Howard said.

Howard is expecting a large fall crop — possibly the biggest he’s ever had — but luckily, his product can last on shelves if stored properly.

“Our product lasts forever. If we move it, we move it. If we don’t, it lasts for many years,” Howard said.

Dale Haas, who operates Haas Farms out of Red Creek, goes to four or five markets a week across the area. Although it seems like there’s less people at markets, he also doesn’t have a huge surplus of leftover product.

“It’s a dry year this year too, so maybe that’s why. The dryness kept the yield down, so I don’t really have a surplus of anything,” Haas said.

While crowds may be smaller, Haas is still glad to see people out at the farmers markets.

“Like I say, people have got to eat,” Haas said.

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