Open-air jazz, locally-grown vegetables, focaccia bread, goat cheese, and Narcan training all competed against a rainstorm last Tuesday at Westside Farmers Market’s annual College Night.

And the vendors held out pretty well. Even as the raindrops intensified, folks kept perusing the tables stationed in the parking lot of St. Monica Church. Among the crowd were a number of college students, mostly from the University of Rochester, likely brought in by the College Night incentives being offered—a five-dollar token, a tote bag, and a prize raffle entry, all free of charge.

Now in its 15th year, Westside volunteer Jackie Farrell said the market partners exclusively with local farms, businesses, and community groups to populate its tables.

“Our mission really is to serve the people in the community, getting them health and nutrition information, and connecting them to the farmers who grow the produce,” Farrell said. “Everything has to be local. It’s a producer-only market, so you have to grow or produce whatever you’re going to sell here.”

Those producers had diverse offerings. Vegetables, of course, were abundant—one vendor pulled from a shopping cart stuffed with corn—but sellers also pushed cheeses, spreads, bread, prepared pasta dishes, and much more.

The community groups peddling information were diverse too. Recovery All Ways, a local nonprofit with a stated “mission to support anyone affected by substance use disorder,” handed out Narcan and trained people in its use. Their station was next to a Moms Demand Action tent, where staffers provided information on gun safety and gathering contacts. SNAP-Ed nutrition and benefits educators also ran a table.

The bustle of the stations was scored by live music. The University’s Midnight Ramblers a cappella group performed, and a local jazz band played away as the rain showers started rolling in.

Farrell hoped that the College Night promotion would help make students more comfortable crossing the bridge into the Rochester community.

“We love college students, and we keep encouraging them that all they have to do is go across the bridge. We know that sometimes the University discourages college students from crossing the bridge, and we are trying to teach them that we’re pretty nice people here.”

Westside will be open every Tuesday from 4 – 7 p.m. until Oct. 11.



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