When Josh Young took over management of the decade-old New Lebanon Farmers Market (NLFM) in rural upstate New York in 2020, he needed to think creatively to mitigate the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He didn’t anticipate those efforts would result in a new hybrid market model that would garner a major grant from the USDA, and serve as a fresh-fare blueprint for food deserts.
Like many Northeastern towns that prospered during the Industrial Era, New Lebanon declined when the passenger rail shuttered in the 1950s. The town’s only grocery store closed more than a dozen years ago. Residents had resigned themselves to the 10-plus-mile haul for shopping.