October 23, 2021

The seed(ling)s of a new season

Farmers market opens in Cortland

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Sheri Saddlemire, far left, and Susan Wilson look at plants Saturday sold by Al Saracene, right, at Cortland’s farmers market. Saturday was the first day the market was open.

With the coronavirus pandemic still restricting public gatherings, Al Saracene said he wasn’t sure what reception Cortland farmers market would get Saturday.

“I kind of didn’t know how today would be with everything going on as it is,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would see customers, but as you can see, people have been buying plants.”

Saracene was one of two vendors at the market on the market’s first day of the season, selling seedlings of tomatoes, swiss chard and peppers, and homemade candles and honey.

The market will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m on Tuesdays and Saturdays until the end of October on Main Street between Court and Orchard streets, said Joan Franklin, the market’s organizer.

Carla Plunkett sold garlic, herbs, cookies, rice bags and knitted items.

The vendors wore masks and gloves to stay within state guidelines regarding coronavirus safety.

With around a quarter of the plants sold, Saracene said that business was doing well, paying off for all the hard work done in February and March to water and transplant the seeds.

“For me, this is the easy part,” he said.

He also said that having spoken with other vendors before Saturday, there was a feeling that home gardening may become more popular as people won’t want to come into contact with each other at supermarkets during the pandemic. He also anticipates more business because of this.

Two of those people wanting to expand their own garden were Susan Wilson and Sheri Saddlemire, both of Cortland.

The couple bought tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from Saracene, Wilson said.

“It’s a great part of Cortland,” she said. “I’ve lived here for 20 years and I’ve come down most years when it’s been open. I try to get down here at least a couple times a month and it’s a great way to support local farmers.”

Saturday was Saddlemire’s first time at the market, but she said she would come back “especially to come to see Al” for gardening advice, she said. “He’s going to help me with my garden this year.”

It was also the first time Alicia Ceneviva and Steven Napolitano visited the market, Ceneviva said. Like Wilson and Saddlemire, Ceneviva and Napolitano bought plants — tomatoes, cucumbers peppers and zucchini — as they were getting into gardening.

“I think it’s awesome,” Ceneviva said. “Everyone’s wearing a mask here. Everyone is keeping their distance and you’re helping local people.”

Napolitano said the market was a good sign of hope for things returning to normal as the state reopens over the coming months.

While there were only two vendors Saturday, more will come throughout the season, Plunkett said.