In 1978, Bill and Ruth Gunderman, and Pat Gunderman and her husband, Ron Nissen took a trip to Ephrata, Pennsylvania, to visit a farm market. They were enamored with the concept and decided that one day they would attempt to create a similar market in Yates County.
In 1986, Ron and Pat and Bill and Ruth began talking over the concept of a farm and craft market with many of their English and Mennonite friends. After receiving encouragement from Susie Stotlzfus, a well-known quilt maker, they decided to set up a meeting to see if there was any interest in pursuing the idea. In February 1986, a meeting was called and 80 people showed up. An initial plan was formulated and with enough interest a steering committee was formed to search for a location. A 26-acre site between Penn Yan and Dundee located on route 14A was chosen.
While this group of grass roots supporters understood the farm market concept, unfortunately any institution that was approached for financial backing did not understand. Nevertheless, on June 27, 1987, we opened our doors with 64 vendors in 2 enclosed buildings, 25 outside vendors and lots of enthusiasm.
The next Saturday, July 4, was even more successful than opening day. Traffic was backed up for 5 miles in each direction trying to get into the market. What a thrill it was that our dreams of a farm and craft market had become a reality.
In 1988, a third enclosed building and an open produce shed were erected. We received a New York State Grant that was awarded to construct sidewalks, concrete floors and restroom facilities. In 1995 an additional 7 ½ acres were purchased to provide additional parking.
From 1997-1999, more outside vendor buildings were erected. In 2004, a New York State Matching Fund grant was awarded to enclose the produce area and former hay auction barn thus making more permanent inside vending areas.
Bill Gunderman was The Windmill’s first Treasurer, resident electrician and architect. He designed many of the buildings at The Windmill. He was also a member of the Board of Directors and held the position of Treasurer for many years. Pat Gunderman was the first President, served on the Board of Directors, held the office of Treasurer after her father’s retirement and functioned as the Market Manager for 6 years until her retirement in 2001. She has been active as a Market Consultant ever since. When asked what he was going to do at the new market Ron Nissen said "I'm going to sell hot dogs, people are always hungery". Ron later served as Market Manager for many years and helped set up several other markets.
In November of 2001, Bill Gunderman passed away. He is still considered the “Father of the Market” and is greatly missed by his family and his many friends.
To quote Bill: “ during all of the years of operation there have been many devoted persons who have put countless hours of time in the operation of the organization. The dedication and patriotism to the market has been outstanding. Hundreds have given their talents unselfishly and the credit for the success belongs to all of them. The Windmill crew did not invent marketing nor did they reinvent it, instead they took most of the good features of other markets and molded them into “The Windmill concept.”