The city is gray, from its concrete skyscrapers to the gum-ridden sidewalks, but bits of green are starting to pop up around Philadelphia.
The farmers’ market trend is growing.
Most markets in the city are managed by one of two organizations: The Food Trust and Farm to City. Both have a variety of markets spread throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs, bringing fresh produce and other goods from farmers and small businesses.
The Food Trust began 20 years ago with the idea of making sure that everyone has access to fresh foods. Today, they operate 25 markets, some of the most well-known being the Clark Park Farmers’ Market at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Headhouse Farmers’ Market at 2nd and Lombard streets on Sundays.
“Our farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh food and it’s also an opportunity for customers to talk to the farmers who produce their food about how it was grown,” said Nicky Uy, senior associate of the farmers’ market program at The Food Trust. “We also try to make the food at our markets more affordable.”
The Food Trust also manages the weekly market on Main Campus at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue on Thursdays.
“We wanted to open a farmers’ market that would serve Temple students, faculty and staff, as well as the Yorktown community that borders it,” Uy said.
Many of the farmers and businesses are transporting their goods less than 150 miles from the markets. Weavers Way Co-op is one of the vendors at The Food Trust’s Headhouse Farmers’ Market. They provide produce locally grown on their Mort Brooks Memorial Farm.
“It is great to broaden our reach to Headhouse Square and allow the co-op to get exposure,” said Rebecca Torpie, marketing director at Weavers Way. “This is an easy way for people to support buying local.”
Bob Pierson and several friends started the city’s first outdoor market in 1996 at South Street and Passyunk Avenue. He then went to work for The Food Trust and launched its farmers’ market program.
In 2000, Pierson left The Food Trust to launch Farm to City. He said he sees the benefits of the markets as two-fold.
“We want to support farmers to keep them on the land and to support the regional economy,” Pierson said. “From the customers’ end, it gives them the freshest produce they can get, sometimes picked the day of or day before.
This year, Farm to City operated 18 markets, each with a wide variety of vendors. Their largest market, with 40 vendors, is the weekly Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Vendors here sell everything from produce and meats to cheeses and wines. Other markets include the University Square Farmers’ Market at 36th and Walnut streets on Wednesdays and Suburban Station Farmers’ Market, year-round on Thursdays.
It may seem like there is a market on every corner, but Farm to City carefully plans to meet the needs of the neighborhoods. “We look for places that have good foot traffic and dense neighborhoods whose leaders and residents know the importance of local food,” Pierson said.
These farms not only provide farmers with an opportunity to sell their goods, but it also helps the surrounding communities.
“We have noticed that farmers’ markets tend to become hubs for communities. It’s a regularly occurring family-friendly event where you can probably count on running into a few neighbors and community leaders while you do your weekly shopping,” Uy said. “We try to be a positive addition to the community, and you can see folks gathering around the market when it’s in operation.”
Sarae Gdovin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org