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Farmers market sets winter hours at Clarkson after year of explosive growth

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POTSDAM — Winter’s approach won’t mean the end of the season for the Potsdam Farmers Market.

For the second year, the market will move to an indoor winter location, but this time it will be in a bigger space with more than twice as many vendors.

Starting Nov. 2, one week after their last Saturday outdoors at Ives Park, the vendors will operate out of Clarkson University’s Cheel Arena.

“We’re working in conjunction with Clarkson for the community to have more sustainable local food throughout the winter,” said Marie L. Cook, manager of the Potsdam Farmers Market.

The market will be open in the arena from 8:30 a.m. to noon every Saturday until it moves back outside in the spring.

Up to 13 vendors will sell local meat, winter vegetables, maple syrup, wine, baked goods and crafts.

Last year was the market’s first experiment with winter hours. Five vendors sold their wares from the Potsdam Veterans of Foreign Wars building.

“We really appreciated it, and it worked out well, but there were two problems,” Mrs. Cook said.

The first was space. The limited size meant only a few vendors could fit in the building.

The second problem was time. The market was not able to start selling out of the building until nearly two months after its normal season ended.

“We lost that momentum,” Mrs. Cook said.

This year’s expansion into Cheel is part of a yearlong focus on growth that has led to an explosion of participation at the market.

In 2012, it was rare to get even 14 vendors at the market at the same time. This year, 36 vendors peddled their wares.

The market actively recruited farmers over last year and Mrs. Cook’s son, Garrison M., helped advertise the market as part of his Clarkson University internship.

Mrs. Cook said there is one goal: turn the farmers market into a destination rather than an errand.

“The community itself is very invested in buying local and spending their money to help the local economy,” she said.

The market implemented new features and programs over the last year to boost its expansion, such as a machine to allow vendors to accept payment from debit cards and electronic benefit cards.

Live music and regular events were created to draw in shoppers and keep them around.

The market maintains a strict rule that at least 50 percent of the vendors must be farmers, with crafts and baked goods taking up the remainder between them, to keep the focus on farm-fresh food.

“We’re very optimistic about how this is going to go,” Ms. Cook said.

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