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New Pendleton Farmers' Market is bustling with customers ; Vendors only sell locally grown items

With its abundant offerings of fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods, the new Pendleton Farmers' Market is already accumulating devotees.

"It's just great having a market so close because we're able to get locally grown vegetables," said Kimberly Potts, 41, of Lockport, happily toting a jar of honey and a bag of lettuce and tomatoes. "It's my second time coming and I'll absolutely be a regular."

The market opened two weeks ago and is operated by the town from 3 to 8 p.m. every Thursday through Oct. 28 in the lot near Town Hall, 6570 Campbell Blvd.

"There's a tendency for people to think farming is something from the past, but we have world-class producers right here in our own backyard," said Geri Hens, the administrator of the market. "The market is an opportunity to showcase local agriculture, which is alive and well in Western New York."

As many as 22 farmers and vendors sell a variety of in-season produce, fruit wine, all-natural meats and poultry, baked goods, preserves and gourmet sauces. The wide selection makes the market a convenience -- a one-stop shopping experience that's touted by Potts and other customers.

The market is not only a hit with Niagara County residents, who are so supportive that farmers are selling out of their goods, there's also a growing waiting list of area farmers and vendors eager for spots to offer their goods.

"It gives the real farmers a chance to sell their food," said Stacey A. McAvoy, of Prudom Farms, which operates a table at the market. "This market is not like some other farmers' markets where people don't grow their own stuff but buy them shipped from out-of-state to sell. Here, the community gets to know their local farmers and can support local farms. And anything that supports the local economy is good."

The market requires that farmers sell only items that they have grown. Other vendors must use locally grown ingredients in the food items they sell, Hens said.

Prudom Farms, a sixth-generation, family-run farm in Middleport, fills its table with lush fruits and vegetables.

Genga Ponnampalam, president of Go Veggies in the Town of Tonawanda, offers his popular spinach, rice and bean burgers, all prepared with fresh ingredients from area producers.

The market is diligent about safety and quality, making sure all farmers and vendors have proper state and federal permits, Hens said.

The market serves Amherst, Getzville, Wheatfield, Cambria, Lockport and Rapids.

"We've got farmers and vendors from those areas and other parts of Niagara and Erie counties," Hens said. "We've tried to select the best local farmers and vendors with renowned products."

Pendleton Supervisor James A. Reister said the town created the market as a way to stimulate its economy and provide residents with healthy food options. Because the market is on Campbell Boulevard (Route 270), there is plenty of traffic and a plentiful supply of customers, Reister said.

Thursday was selected because farmers are tied up selling at other markets on other days. Also, the market is based in a parking lot near the town park -- the site of a variety of recreational activities, including Little League baseball games Thursday evenings.

"It's also a great social activity," Reister said. "People can come down and see people they haven't seen, pick up veggies, talk and have good time."

Hens said the town is pursuing grant money to renovate the old highway garage next to the market to create an indoor market, providing produce to residents year-round.

Also, the market is making arrangements with the state to accept WIC or food stamps. At the market Thursday, Jennifer Ertel, a 31-year-old Pendleton resident, was excited by her purchases -- bags full of fruits, vegetables, and a variety of breads and meats.

"I love it; I hope it gets bigger and bigger," she said. "It's conveniently located, I just stopped by on my way from work. It's better than going to the supermarket because you're getting fresh food and the prices are better and you help the local economy and farmers."