Reveling in local food, music, and life: Experience Cortland sat down with Molly Andrejko about her recent Instagram takeover. Molly Andrejko is the Project Coordinator for Seven Valleys Health Coalition and last week we turned over our Experience Cortland Instagram account to her. The result? We got an inside look at Cortland County’s Farmers Markets, eating fresh and local, supporting CSAs, and enjoying the environment. I caught up with Molly at BRU 64 to talk about her experience. Experience Cortland: Molly, tell me a little bit about yourself. Molly Andrejko: I am a Cortland local. I went away to college and was away from Cortland for a while then came back and ended up finding out that I actually enjoyed Cortland and so I stayed here. It was a surprise to me. EC: As do many who come back. Molly: Yes, so I am the mother of two young boys Dell and Sam who are 2 and 3 years old. And I work at Seven Valleys Health Coalition as a Project Coordinator for the Farmers Market Promotion Program USDA Grant. EC: What does that role entail? Molly: The long-term goal of the grant is to research viability of a year-round farmers market within the city of Cortland. That’s the end goal. The short term is just the viability of it. It’s a three-year grant and at the end of three years there will be a comprehensive market research and possibly (hopefully) a plan, but not necessarily a structure built. In the meantime, the shorter goals within the grant are promoting direct producer to consumer sales. So, any farmer or anyone in the business of agriculture who’s growing their products and selling them directly to their customers are people who I can promote. EC: And that what was so great about your Instagram takeover. You took us to the farmers markets throughout the county. I think that people are surprised that we actually have four farmers markets in Cortland County. That it’s not just the Main Street Farmers Market in Cortland but you have Village Green in Homer, Cincinnatus, and Virgil. It was nice to talk to the farmers themselves when you were promoting them, but what do you see (as a consumer and a promoter) that’s something special about our Farmers Markets? Molly: I think that there are more agricultural products than people realize. Like you really can be a localvore here… EC: It’s not just veggies… Molly: Yeah it’s not just—we think of ourselves as a dairy community you know like largely the dairy industry and we do have a large thriving dairy industry here in Cortland County, but 40% of Cortland County’s land is zoned agricultural and I mean you can actually live off the land here if you’re so inclined. Yeah so we have fresh water, good soil—good clean soil for growing, um, clean air here so…And the products at the Farmers Markets really reflect that. You can really truly do your grocery shopping at farmers markets in Cortland. EC: That’s amazing. With that being said—we have a really rich agricultural history that we should be proud of—how do you see that mixing with tourism? Molly: I wish it could be more of a draw. I do think right now that the markets are wonderful in their small communities is something special. Somehow if they could retain their own identities but also work in collaboration for a year-round farmers market—I think that—like the Ithaca’s Farmers Market is a huge draw to Ithaca—so I wish Cortland, that’s my vision for the Cortland Farmers Market is to be a destination and to look cool, clean… EC: You’re going for the experience too not just the product? Molly: Yes, you might hear music, there are kids activities, there’s music, um, but most importantly you can actually do your grocery shopping there. And feel like you got your staples for the week at a farmers market. EC: So, you’ve said that it was your mission to improve the buy-in and quality of life in Cortland and that it starts with the locals…can you tell us a little bit more about that? Molly: Yeah, I think just my experience when I was younger in Cortland everyone was so negative. People had such a negative view of Cortland and you go out into the wider world and you see other communities and you see what a rich fulfilling life you can have in Cortland. It’s a great place to raise a family, it’s a great place for social engagements, music and art. It’s a hidden gem. Cortland is a hidden gem. You can bike everywhere, the city is in a grid pattern so it’s easy to navigate, we have a university, they’re decent jobs here. So, I do look at my mission at convincing *laughs* okay not really convincing but peer pressuring … it I can just feel like people’s perceptions of our town are changing just a little bit to the more positive direction then I think that’s a really good thing. And that’s part of the farmers market thing too—was increasing quality of life for locals. That’s a huge thing, not just for tourism, but to attracting millennials to wanting to live and work in Cortland. You have to have that base so that we can be a tourist destination. We’ve got all the building blocks—Main Street, music, parks… EC: Sometimes you have to go away and come back to really appreciate it. Molly: Yes, definitely. And other people need to feel that way….one of the hashtags I used for my takeover was #whatsyourcontribution. What are you doing to improve Cortland? EC: Be the change to see the change. Locals can attract outside visitors—if you’re enjoying local things and making it a better place—people from the outside will see that and want to visit. Going off that a little bit, you are also involved with PorchFest. Can you tell me a little bit about it and how it went from an idea to reality? Molly: PorchFest Cortland* came from the brainchild of someone in Ithaca, in the fall creek neighborhood and since its spread across the county and global—there are several in Europe now. I am in a band and it just so happens that if you were walking on our street on a Tuesday night you might hear music playing and I thought why couldn’t we do that [PorchFest]? We live in a nice residential area—VanHoesen Street—with a park right there [Sugget Park] and Wickwire Pool, it’s a nice recreation area, families, nice neighbors, and a really musical street. Cortland has an incredible musical history so that’s’ where the idea came from really…walking up the street one night and hearing another band practice that wasn’t mine and thinking, they should be out practicing on their porch! Every now and then our band [Molly and the Badly Bent Bluegrass Boys] practice on our front porch, but one thing that I wanted to add to the PorchFest dynamic that Ithaca already did…One thing that was important to me was making sure that a community agency benefited from it. That it helped to inspire and cultivate and shape and give opportunity to young musicians. We do get sponsorships for PorchFest Cortland from local businesses and agencies from around town and all of the money that we raise goes to the Cortland Youth Bureau Music Program that offers scholarships for low income families and also to a Sugget Park Playground Initiative. Right now, for PorchFest we have 41 acts are signed up for a 6 hours window. Each of the 41 acts will perform for 45 min window all throughout the street—the street will be closed. There will also be activity booths for local area business and agencies will be providing a free activity for families to do… EC: A really nice family afternoon with lots of local music. What in your personal opinion—from your takeover and living in Cortland—what is one thing that visitors should take away from Cortland County? Molly: I would say that “Wow-that place has it all.” And that I would want them to say, “I had fun.” Yeah, there’s a lot to do here… people should be pleasantly surprised.
[Cortland]...is a great place to raise a family, it’s a great place for social engagements, music and art. It’s a hidden gem. Cortland is a hidden gem.
*PorchFest Cortland 2017 will be on Sunday, August 20 from noon to 6pm on Van Hoesen Street