More than 20 local producers selling fresh produce, meats, baked goods and more, came out to the Rittenhouse Saturday Farmers’ Market in Center City Philadelphia on Saturday, Jan. 22. Long lines began to form even before the market’s official start at 10 a.m.
Bob Pierson, a resident of Queen Village and founder of Farm to City, which organizes the weekly Saturday market, started the Rittenhouse Saturday Farmers’ Market in 2004 which hosts vendors living within a 150 mile radius to Philadelphia.
In the fall of 1996, Pierson joined The Food Trust, an organization that works to ensure that everyone has access to affordable nutritious food. With them he opened seven farmers markets before the one at Rittenhouse. Growing up, Pierson ‘s family ate dinner together with the crops they grew in their home garden, which is why it’s important for him to see small family farms survive.
“We’ve just seen [the market] grow and a lot of city people get to know the farmers, the farmers get to know the city people,” Pierson said.
For many vendors, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased customer turnout, said Laura Yaghoobian, Co-owner of Wild Flour Bakery, which sells artisan breads and pastries that are made at their bakery in Northeast Philadelphia.
“It’s all open air and outdoor and people feel much more comfortable shopping in an open space,” Yaghoobian said.
Many vendors have built strong connections with returning customers over the years. They know each other by name and know what they are coming to buy, said Emily Rohrer, an employee at Rineer Family Farms which has been a vendor since the market first started at Rittenhouse. She stressed that having someone consistent from their farm at the market creates familiarity.
“There’s a good one right here” she said as she pointed to David Fineman, one of her long-standing customers. “She’s the best,” shouted Fineman as he walked away.
Some vendors have sold their goods at the market since it started, while others have started selling their products recently. No matter the conditions, vendors and customers come out each Saturday to participate.
“Something that endures, I think, particularly well at any kind of living, but in city living to find things that are sustainable and that endure I think, give the city a sense of life and stability,” said Janet Lorenz, a Center City West resident who has been a regular of the market for 15 years.