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.

I strongly urge taxpaying citizens in the CCSD to send an email to Superintendent Lyn McKay (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and our school board president, Karen Visser (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), urging them to please reconsider hosting the indoor winter farmers market at Bell.

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.

Nancy Huehnergarth

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Bell School on Saturday mornings the facility is being used by a host of organizations including but limited to mens league, youth sports and student rehearsal for a host of activities. Hosting the farmers market sounds nice with all its environmental and organic implications it simply does not belong in a school that will be simultaneously being used. Strangers mixing with students is a bad idea – and I don’t know where you had in mind for the market but the gym is used. The market brings with it insurance issues as well. If someone slips on liquid left behind by a vendor the school district gets sued.  Nice thought but practical. Its unfair to take a shot at our CCSD School officials over this.

By Chapp mom and Pop on 11/18/2014 at 3:47 pm

Nancy, Dr. McKay’s email is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for the excellent letter.

By Lou on 11/18/2014 at 4:10 pm

Another example of the very poor judgment by our CCSD Board.  Anyone surprised ?
And, they have quite a record.

By anyone surprised ? on 11/18/2014 at 4:17 pm

Couldn’t they set it up in the bell auditorium and keep the doors locked to the school? Or what about the community center – why can’t that be used?

By bob on 11/18/2014 at 4:25 pm

i will support the winter market wherever it is.  I think it is a valuable resourse for our community.

By leslie pierson on 11/18/2014 at 4:40 pm

What are the reasons the school board is saying no to the CFM?

By Robin Murphy on 11/18/2014 at 5:54 pm

Maybe we can get Jay and Jill Shapiro to intervene, They have great sway with the CCSD Board..

By market at bell, yes on 11/18/2014 at 6:10 pm

Hey, why should the community be allowed to use the schools that our taxes are paying for ?

By ????? on 11/18/2014 at 6:38 pm

Youth sports brings many strangers into Bell on the weekends so students are already mixing with strangers. Liability issues could be handled – Bell just hosted the Craft Fair and CCSD apparently got beyond concerns someone might slip on liquid (food and drink were served and sold at the Craft Fair). The Pleasantville School District has figured out how to deal with liability, safety and sanitation issues as they host their town’s winter market at their middle school year after year. CCSD could do the same to help out our community—and they should.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 11/18/2014 at 7:30 pm

There are plenty of places that this could take place in our community. Seven bridges cafeteria is hardly used on a Saturday morning.  What about the Greeley Cafeteria? Grafflin or West Orchard.  We are a community and as such should support both school and community functions. We are the taxpayers that fund the schools, are we not? They are not two separate entities in my mind.  I have been to the market many times and it is a weekly town wide event that brings the town together and also offers a great array of food for our families. Let’s ask our school board again if they cannot find some space in the many areas we have to support this great market. I am sure they can find a great place and we can enjoy coming together each Saturday all year long. Come on people…One Community

By One Community on 11/18/2014 at 8:11 pm


Thank you for your advocacy on this issue.  I will be emailing the school board in support of bringing the market to the Bell School.
I find it unphathomable that the school board would not be supportive of this great idea that will surely be a benefit to the tax payers of this town.

By roberta galant on 11/18/2014 at 8:38 pm

I sent a letter asking for the reason why the school board denied the CFM request and asking them to reconsider.  I hope to receive a reply.

By Robin Murphy on 11/18/2014 at 10:46 pm

This does not sound like a decision that is made by the school board.  They don’t do day to day operating decisions. They write emails. This is a decision for whomever is in charge of buildings and grounds.

Why won’t the church allow this at their property any more?  What about using some of the 80,000 square feet of empty space at Chappaqua Crossing?  Maybe WHole Foods could even sponsor it as a show of good will to the community.

Are the vendors for profit companies?  Is the school allowed to have for profits renting their space?

You all are jumping to a lot of conclusions here.

By Community Interested on 11/19/2014 at 9:02 am

Bell School is in use on Saturday mornings. It is used by school groups, rec groups, and youth sports. There are chorus, band and theater rehearsals ( and performances).
The safety and liability issues aside there simply is no room.

By Parent on 11/19/2014 at 4:24 pm

Community interested,

Are you saying that this letter that Nancy Huenergarth has written is a lie ?

Perhaps it us you who is jumping to conclusions and I wonder why that would be.

The farmers market is a marvelous amenity to the town that is enjoyed by so many people each week and it belongs in the downtown area
How is it that other schools in other towns host these markets but our school board refuses ?

By resident on 11/19/2014 at 5:23 pm

Community Interested, the vendors at the Bell Craft Fair were for profit entities and were able to set up and sell in the school building. The winter farmers market would benefit more members of the community on a regular basis.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 11/19/2014 at 6:02 pm

Does anyone know why the community minded church refused to let them use their property this year?  Was it because CFM was a messy tenant? Didn’t pay their bill?  I would bet that whatever that reason is, is the same reason the school does not want them.

Editor’s Note:  Nope.  They left the place in ship-shape every Saturday.

By Stephen S. on 11/19/2014 at 11:17 pm

Thank you Nancy.  You are absolutely right!

By on the mark on 11/20/2014 at 3:43 pm

Nancy – The Bell Craft Fair is a 1 or 2 day event. The entire Bell Weekend schedule is cancelled or there is a work around during the craft fair. Then it ends. The Farmers market is an EVERY Saturday morning till noon event. 
If there was room I would say you are on to something but there simply is no room unless you want to cancel Bell student events and youth sports events.
The market takes hours to set up and hours to clean up so wherever they set up in Bell you can bet that that space will be out of commission for most of the day.

By resident on 11/20/2014 at 4:29 pm


Are you really saying that there is no room at Bell for the market.  That us nonsensical .
It does not take the hours you say to clean up.  That is also bogus.

Stephen S.,

You are making some ugly accusations.  Why would you do that.

By bring the market to Bell on 11/20/2014 at 5:43 pm

it does take hours to set up and clean up. The vendors arrive at least one hour before the market opens to the public. Depending on each vendors needs like tables , display and ice cases, ovens eye the clean up can also be hours.

Bring the market yo bell- there is no room. There are only a few spaces large enough to accommodate multiple vendors and their tables displays and equipment. The gym and auditorium are in use. Using classrooms and hallways is not practical – won’t work.
That’s fact – it’s not nonsensical. What brilliant idea do you have?

By Shopper on 11/20/2014 at 7:36 pm

Editor:ok, so why were they not allowed back? If it is not money and not cleanliness, what is it?

Btw the beer guy can’t sell at the school.

By Stephen S on 11/20/2014 at 8:53 pm

Thank you, Nancy.  Pleasantville allows the market in the middle school, and that works out just fine. (BTW, the market runs till 1:30, not noon, and cleans up and out quickly – as usual, “resident” attacks but doesn’t have the facts.)

We shop weekly at the farmers’s market and have gotten to know many of the vendors.  The market is an important part of our community that also draws people into the downtown business district on a Saturday morning.  I purchased a jacket last week at a Squire’s street sale that I wouldn’t have known was in progress, had I not come to town for the market. Where is the downside?

Also, a vendor told my husband that only the vendors with greens and other veggies that can’t take cold will be allowed into the station.  Everyone else will be outside through December – freezing – for 4 1/2 hours.  It is ridiculous for Chappaqua to screw up something that is working – the market.  Maybe the Chamber of Commerce should get involved, too, along with whoever can influence the school district.

By Farmers Market Patron on 11/20/2014 at 10:49 pm

Farmers Market Patron,

Are you kidding, that is what Chappaqua is famous for, screwing up what is working.

Board after board, both school and town, they continue to make poor decisions, circle the wagons take no responsibility.

I love going to the market but will not hold my breadth for the CCSD to do the right thing.  Of course I would love to be proved wrong.

Meanwhile all residents who care should email the school board post haste.

By resident on 11/21/2014 at 7:18 am

The Chappaqua School Board has a long history of not working with the town.  This is just more of the same.

By more of the same on 11/21/2014 at 7:40 am

Its easy to say lets have Bell be the winter home to the Farmers market. But where do you expect it to go in Bell? Classrooms have desks , hall ways are too narrow and dark. The bigger open spaces like the gym are used from morning till night by mens league, boys and girls youth rec basketball and girls and boys travel basketball.

All of you are so quick to condemn the “town” or the CCSD school board. maybe you should think first and get facts. Just because Pleasantville does it doesn’t mean Chapp can do it. The number of kids using their gym and facilities are much smaller than ours. They have far fewer teams in their Rec program and far fewer students in general.

By kaye on 11/21/2014 at 11:16 am

are the other schools (besides Bell) being considered? farm’ers markets are the best way to get people up and around chappaqua in the winter.

By leslie pierson on 11/22/2014 at 9:36 am

The Bell auditorium has been suggested by people with knowledge of the school, as an ideal place to hold the winter farmers market every Saturday. I’m still hopeful that CCSD will reconsider and initiate discussions with the farmers market organizers to figure out the logistics for at least a trial run. Our schools prepare and serve food all week long, so the sanitation and liability issues that would arise can clearly be dealt with. Dr. McKay and the CCSD Board, the community is asking for your help. Please step up to the plate and host the winter farmers market. Please demonstrate that our taxpayer-funded schools serve the needs of our community by reversing your decision.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 11/22/2014 at 1:16 pm


Their history speaks for itself.  No jumping to conclusions.

By more of the same on 11/22/2014 at 1:40 pm

too many people making comments and too many people in this town always looking to find fault with the town board or the school board or the DPW or whatever.
Take a deep breath. There is probably a very reasonable and logical answer to why the school board didn’t think it a good idea to us Bell School for a market.
It seems reasonable to me that a school full of students / young athletes on a Saturday morning should not be subjec and exposed to vendors and their shoppers. Perhaps our insurance does not cover such an event. Perhaps there simply is no room unless you are willing to cancel all Saturday morning and afternoon events all winter at Bell.
My kids played Rec and travel basketball and I can tell you the gym and school is in full use.
Classrooms and hallways are not suitable. The auditorium is often used for rehearsals and other school related events. The logistics of getting in and out of Bell also are an obstacle. the steps up to the school at the fields and the portico are not conducive to getting vendors equipment tables food etc into the school.
All you folks complaining and lookng to place blame should chill.

By JJ on 11/23/2014 at 11:10 am

nancy – yes, our schools prepare and serve food all week long. But you are incorrect in your conclusion that sanitation and liability issues that would arise can be dealt with.
Preparation and serving of food is done in the cafeteria with cafeteria staff. Serving and preparing food in our auditorium is completely different. Several vendors bring ovens and heating elements. Others require electricity for other displays. Ice chests and coolers ( think of the vendors selling fish) and pickle barrels.
The cafeteria utilizes the school janitorial staff. Who is cleaning up,our auditorium after the farmers market. The gargbage , the odors, the aftermath is not suitable for our student auditorium. Besides, given the entrances/exits at Bell I see a real problem with getting vendors and customers in and out.
Insurance and liability issues aside, I think the CCSD school board has a singular priority and that is the safety and well being of our students. A one and done crafts fair is completely diff than a weekly Saturday morn/aft farmers market.
I love the market and shop there almost every week. But Bell school is not appropriate.

By Dear Nancy on 11/23/2014 at 3:13 pm

Since the Town Supervisor says the Town has had a big increase in revenues, why can’t this be a joint effort between the market , town and school?  Let the Town offset some of the cost , which I am sure is a large part of the school board’s issue.  Seems like it would be a win, win, win!

By A Suggestion on 11/24/2014 at 8:31 am

Can there be brainstorming re: other locations?

I can think of 2:  Millwood Fire Station or New Castle Community Center.

By farmers market must stay on 11/24/2014 at 8:31 am

To Dear Nancy: While I appreciate your thoughtful analysis, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your “singular priority” comment. CCSD has a commitment to our students’ welfare, which we all support. But should our schools, funded by taxpayer dollars, be allowed to turn away events (when school is not in session) that are beneficial to the community?

I think sanitation, liability, electricity, etc. are classic red herrings raised by CCSD. Disprove that these are problematic and I guarantee CCSD would come up with another list of “concerns.” The truth is that they do not want to stick their necks out to work with/assist the community.

If CCSD wanted to be community-minded, why haven’t they offered up another less busy school like Grafflin to host the market? CCSD’s recalcitrance goes against the national trend for school buildings to be used by communities both for general recreation and community events. It is a position that taxpayers should not accept.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 11/24/2014 at 8:39 am

Would be nice to hear exactly why the school board refused to permit the farmers market at Bell School from the school board themselves .

By school board ? on 11/24/2014 at 8:50 am

The farmers market regulars will now head to Pleasantville- and shop there after as well.  Unfortunate because many will never come back to Chappaqua.  Maybe on a nice spring day, but not before.  Too bad Pleasantville can figure it out and its just too complicated for Chappaqua.

By We lose on 11/24/2014 at 11:04 am

nancy – you clearly have some vendetta against the CCSD board of Ed. You state that there is a national trend to use schools for general recreation and community events. You insinuate our schools are used only by students and only for school events. That is absolutely incorrect and kills whatever little credibility you have.
Our schools are used for a multitude of recreational activities. Perhaps you should check out the New Castle Recreation department and see how many programs they oversee. Now check and see what facilities New Castle Rec uses for its programs. You will see that boys and girls sports of all ages uses our schools gyms and fields.
I have coached my kids in tee ball, baseball, softball, basketball, soccor and football. We have used school facilities for all and these programs that are not school programs. Our schools are used for programs for seniors and adult Ed. Our schools are used for men’s basketball and soccer. There is the antique show at Grafflin and crafts fair at Bell.
I think you haven’t thought this thru very well.

By coach on 11/24/2014 at 3:13 pm

We lose is almost entirely correct.  Pleasantville is much better but close in downtown gives us the competitive edge.  But pleasantville is better hands down

By Many unpublished posts on 11/24/2014 at 3:53 pm

Nancy – I agree with Coach. Our schools are used for many non school and community activities. I have 3 kids and all of them are involved in non school related activities that use the school auditoriums, gyms and fields.
I took a yoga class a few years ago as part of adult Ed and it was at Greeley. My husband took an EMS class at one of the schools. We go to Grafflin for the annual antique show and the crafts fair at Bell.
Based on my experience we are following the national trend ( your words) and our schools are being used for general recreation and community events.
I you should have gotten some facts before writing this letter which unfairly takes aim at the school board.

By KC on 11/24/2014 at 6:08 pm

Nancy – your letter and the headline is about using Bell School for the farmers market. If the folks that run the market asked for permission to use Bell and where denied I assume there was a good reason. As others have said, Bell is old, dark , narrow hallways, many steps up to the entrance and it is fully utilized every Saturday by multiple programs. Why not give our school officials the benefit of doubt and understand that for many reasons Bell is just not going to work.
If You think another underutilized school should have been offered up then please tell us which one is suitable and underutilized, can handle all the vendors and hundreds of shoppers. I hope they don’t use my child’s elementary school.

By Resident on 11/24/2014 at 6:43 pm

Nancy has a beef with the district because she was thrown off of the district nutrition committee. She also says on her website that she was responsible for the district having to change its lunch program. One of her consulting businesses listed on her site is grass roots organization and media campaigns. This is just a resume stuffer.

It is sort of ironic that she and the others are saying the schools don’t let the residents run rampant, when one of the reasons above for the schools not doing it is because Bell is already in use on Saturdays.

By Old Timer on 11/24/2014 at 6:59 pm

Coach, two comments:

1) I’m alluding to a national movement to open school recreation facilities for informal use by community members – I failed to explain that adequately. Schools are being encouraged to have open hours (before and after school and on weekends) in which community members (rather than organized teams) have use of gyms, basketball courts, weight rooms, etc.

2) If your premise is correct and CCSD is very eager to open its doors to community events, why reject the farmers market – a weekly community event that is so important to town residents and merchants?  Please don’t tell me because it’s food – food is cooked or heated on premise, sold and served at many after-school events, including the ones you mentioned.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 11/25/2014 at 9:37 am


I do not see that Nancy says that our schools are only used for students and school events.
She said no such thing.  For you to say that she did calls your credibility into question.

Your experiences thru the years with the schools may have been just fine but others have had different experiences that are not so fine.  Your dismissal of their experiences again calls your credibility into question.

By Resident on 11/25/2014 at 10:28 am

nancy- based on my personal experiences and the experiences of my kids and family our schools are already being used for recreation and community events. Having just read all the comments it is clear others also have used our schools for these events as well. The following have been mentioned –
Youth sports / boys and girls recreational and travel sports programs
Adult Rec sports / basketball, volleyball, soccer
Adult Education
Senior Citizen programs
Crafts Fair
Antique Show
Voting/ political events
I am sure there are others.
The farmers market is a bad fit and the school board should not be pressured because you have some issue with them. This letter is way off the mark and terribly inaccurate.

By 10514 on 11/30/2014 at 8:24 am

nancy – in your comment above to Coach you again fail to recognize the obvious. You indicate that our gyms and weight rooms should have ” open hours” so community members have use. You obviously have no clue. Our gyms and weight rooms are already used before and after school,hours. In some cases they are utilized by school teams and students. In other instances they are used by rec and travel programs. And in some cases they are used for open play , like men’s basketball where we organize pick up games. My sons played football and they often went to the weight room before school or stayed after school. Gyms and weight room is open during the summer for the same reason.  It would be a terrible idea to have student athletes sharing facilities with the general public. It probably violates safety and best practice protocols.
Farmers Market at Bell School is not practical. The school is in full use on Saturday.

By Resident on 11/30/2014 at 8:35 am

nancy – which events would you suggest we cancel in order to host a weekly Saturday Farmers Market? Your letter ignores the fact that Bell School ( and other facilities) are fully utilized on Saturday- all day into the evening sometimes. Bell is used for Rec and travel basketball- boys and girls.  They often host tournaments. Travel teams come from all over Westchester to play our kids. When in town they eat and shop. Ask Pizza Station, Villarenas, Dunkin Doughnuts how much business they get from these events all day long.
You write your letter as if our schools sit empty on Saturday. I assure you they do not.

By Parent first on 11/30/2014 at 8:50 am

I will ask again…..why not the New Castle Community Center for now?  or the Millwood Fire Station that is currently being replaced in the very near future?

By a non-school location perhaps?? on 12/01/2014 at 5:57 pm

Still waiting for CCSD to do the right thing, the community-minded thing and offer up a school location for the winter farmers market, like Pleasantville Schools have done for their community. I’ll wager that the farmers market vendors would leave any school space they use far cleaner than the food mess you’ll find at indoor travel tournaments and other sporting events.

Now there’s a very long thread on Chappaqua Moms where many are upset that the farmers market may not find a winter home. Is CCSD, with 6 huge, supposedly community-friendly buildings really going to allow this important community resource to close for the winter?

Keep sending emails to Superintendent Lyn McKay (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and our school board president, Karen Visser (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and ask them to reconsider.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 12/04/2014 at 5:13 pm

Really sad. From the Examiner, “Chappaqua Winter Farmers Market in Jeopardy of Being Canceled.”  http://www.theexaminernews.com/chappaqua-winter-farmers-market-in-jeopardy-of-being-canceled/

Absolutely astonishing that CCSD refuses to offer up one of its 6 taxpayer-financed buildings to help the community save the winter farmers market. Actually, it’s downright shameful.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 12/04/2014 at 9:54 pm

Nancy, what was the response to your email to the district?  You did email them, right?

By Rezindent on 12/05/2014 at 1:53 pm

It’s official. No winter farmers market. Chappaqua Farmers Market put out a statement today. It gives more information on their unproductive outreach to the school district:  http://chappaquafarmersmarket.org/winter-market-update/

Neither liability insurance, which the market carries, nor the market’s ability to pay school fees were issues.

Our community has 6 large taxpayer-funded school buildings and CCSD didn’t see fit to offer up even one location for the market. Shameful.

By Nancy Huehnergarth on 12/08/2014 at 11:18 am

Nancy, What did the school say in response to your email?

By Rezident on 12/12/2014 at 11:26 am

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