A new collaboration between five local farmers markets strives to increase food accessibility in Broome County.

Markets of Broome was organized by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County (CCE Broome County). The partnership will include the Binghamton Farmers Market, the Broome County Regional Farmers Market, the Little Italy Endicott Farmers Market, the Vestal Farmers Market and the Windsor Farmers Market. Through this project, Markets of Broome hopes to encourage sustainability and local food production and increase food accessibility for Broome County residents.

“The Broome County Regional Farmers Market is excited about the Markets of Broome collaboration to enhance our local farmers market,” said Amanda Poodiack, the manager of Broome County Regional Farmers Market. “This initiative brings together a multitude of expertise and ideas that help ignite innovation and resilience in our local food system. The BCRFM can access expanded networks, marketing strategies and support systems through this team approach, resulting in increased foot traffic, vendor success and positive community engagement.”

Markets of Broome was organized to create a stronger food system in Broome County, which has high levels of food insecurity. In 2021, 15.1 percent of children in Broome County suffered from food insecurity, while in 2019, the USDA reported that 43.7 percent of Broome County residents had low access to healthy food. Poverty, lack of public transportation access and fewer grocery options can create barriers to food accessibility.

Markets of Broome is an unofficial collaboration facilitated by CCE Broome County — a local office for Cornell Cooperative Extension, an education system associated with Cornell University. Cornell Cooperative Extension has offices throughout New York state, focusing on increasing nutrition — particularly for children — assisting communities and research. CCE Broome County aims to foster “economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being” through initiatives like Markets of Broome.

“The goal of Markets of Broome is to help connect consumers with their local farmers market, as well as help build a stronger foundation for the five member markets in Broome County,” Laura Biasillo, the agriculture economic development specialist at CCE Broome County, wrote in an email. “This includes a consolidated website with consumer information such as shopping tips and information on the markets, and information on how someone could join any of the markets as a vendor, coordinated social media and marketing campaigns,and professional development for the markets and managers.”

To encourage Broome County residents to participate, Markets of Broome accepts SNAP and EBT cards, in addition to coupons from the federal Farmers Market Nutrition Program and state initiatives like FreshConnect Fresh2You. Markets of Broome also hopes to increase the number of vendors participating in its farmers markets.

Markets of Broome has a consolidated website, including information about each of the markets. They also provide users looking to become market vendors with logistical information about necessary resources and regulations. The website features an events calendar, showing when each market is operating and spotlighting upcoming events. During the first two weeks of August, Markets of Broome plans to host events for New York Farmers Market Week, including chef demonstrations, bingo and prizes. They also plan to release a cookbook with recipes from the five member markets.

Biasillo provided different options for students to become involved in Markets of Broome, from shopping to signing up to be vendors. She also suggested students advocate for the University to provide transportation to markets close to student housing, like the Vestal Farmers Market on the Vestal Parkway. In March, student sustainability groups funded an Off Campus College Transport charter to bring students to the Broome County Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays. The charter ran until April 27, with stakeholders in the project potentially funding a fall charter.

“I think increasing access to farmers markets is really important, and in a class I’m taking where we have a project to redevelop a Binghamton site my group has chosen to include a farmers market in our plan,” Bassie Chin, a sophomore double-majoring in art history and geography, wrote. “Particularly in Broome County where access to fresh affordable produce is not always readily available, I think increasing the size and number of farmers markets can only be for [good].”