MEDINA – When Gail Miller retired in 2013 as a business analyst for IBM, she wasn’t planning on going back to work.
But that’s exactly what she did – as volunteer coordinator of Medina ’s Canal Village Farmers’ Market.
Her efforts in developing the market, securing vendors and promoting local agriculture have earned her the distinction of Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year. She will be recognized with the other Chamber honorees on Oct. 18 at the White Birch Country Club in Lyndonville.
“I was on the board of the Orleans County Farmers’ Market, and when it quit, I thought it was a shame,” Miller said. “I mentioned it to several people, including Cindy Robinson, who said she would be willing to help get another market going. I must admit, it was more work than I thought it would be, but it has been well worth it.”
Miller is at the market, which operates in the former bank lot on the corner of West Avenue and West Center Street, every Saturday morning. The lot is owned by the Orleans Renaissance Group, which sponsors the market.
In July 2015, the new market opened with eight vendors. There are now 20 on most Saturdays, who offer a variety of products, such as sausage, pork, chemical free and heirloom produce, dehydrated mixes, vegan food, baked goods, poultry, flour and maple syrup.
There are also vendors with children’s books and wineries who rotate every Saturday. A Canal Kids’ Tent provides games, puzzles, chalk art and free books to children.
“While our goal is to have farm-based products, we try to build on that and have a variety,” Miller said. “We have a different artist every week, who might do pottery, needlework or painting. It’s like a part-time job, and if it wasn’t for my husband helping me, I would be spending hours every day.”
They provide a community tent for non-profits to use each week. A recent week it was used by the Knights-Kaderli Fund to promote their annual walk/run. Another week, it might be yoga demonstrations.
Miller said she couldn’t believe it when she learned she had been recognized by the Chamber.
“I don’t think of myself as a business person, but more of a coordinator to help other people reach their goal, while helping the community get good, healthy and home-grown food,” she said.
She credits Chris Busch, the ORG chairman, for his work with the market, especially doing all the advertising, and eight other volunteers.
Miller is an active member of her community in other ways, as well.
She is membership chairman for the Medina Historical Society, a volunteer for the Parade of Lights and a member of Medina hospital’s Honeysuckle Twig.
Miller grew up in Cambria on her family’s crop farm, where she worked.
“While I am honored by the Chamber award, it is a tribute to the market and all its vendors,” she said. “It’s been a group effort.”