L to E: School district’s hosting of Chappaqua Farmers Market at Bell would benefit our town
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
by Nancy Huehnergarth
As a weekly shopper at the Chappaqua Farmers Market, I was deeply dismayed to learn that the Chappaqua Central School District (CCSD) has refused to host the indoor winter farmers market at the Bell School.
The popular, non-profit market is a vibrant community-gathering place on Saturday mornings, bringing high-quality local foods and produce to our town. The winter market, which can no longer be hosted by St. Mary’s church, has served as a shopping and meeting place for families and seniors for the past three years.
Why CCSD refused to host the market at Bell is a mystery, but not particularly surprising. CCSD’s leadership long ago erected impermeable barriers between the school system, the community and town leaders. Whereas Chappaqua’s residents bear a significant tax burden to fund our schools, the school district appears to maintain a deliberate distance between itself and the community, which not only defies logic but also engenders ill-will.
With a national movement afoot to open public schools after hours for indoor recreation and events that benefit community residents, it’s time for CCSD to become a collaborative part of our community, rather than remain an island alone.
I have no doubt that the Chappaqua Farmers Market organizers would work closely with the district to handle sanitation, liability and security needs. Other events at Bell have successfully featured food and food service – witness the food vendors at the recent Bell Craft Fair.
Perhaps a good compromise would be for CCSD to reverse its decision and give the winter farmers market a two-month trial period inside Bell School. While the indoor market has been green-lighted to use the train station building through January (when construction on a new restaurant may begin), this is hardly a long-term solution considering space needs, shopper/merchant comfort and weather concerns. A winter Chappaqua Farmers Market in comfortable confines is important to the community and will draw shoppers into our town center, where they spend money at other stores and restaurants.
Our neighboring town of Pleasantville hosts a busy winter farmers market in its middle school. The market serves and unites the community throughout the long, cold winter months when people tend to hibernate. CCSD leaders could easily speak with administrators of the Pleasantville School District to learn how they have successfully dealt with sanitation or other concerns that have arisen as they hosted their town’s market.
A thriving, united community depends on good will and cooperation between taxpayers, school district administrators and town leaders. CCSD should do its part by hosting the town’s winter farmers market and reversing its decades-long detachment from the rest of the community.