Philadelphia is home to more than 65 farmers’ markets. This number may now increase due to the city’s recent decision to make the licensing and registration process easier and more affordable for those who wish to open a market. Some food trucks on Main Campus see this as an advantage to their business, rather than increased competition.
In late March, Philadelphia City Council approved changes that would eliminate the $300 fee required for farmers’ market licensing, lessen the rules and restrictions for operating a market and simplify the registration process through the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Owner of the Sexy Green Truck on Montgomery Avenue, Selim Zeka said his food truck was one of the first Temple trucks to provide healthy options with a wide range of ingredients. Those ingredients have occasionally come from farmers’ markets, Zeka said, when weather permits.
When the truck opened in 2008, Zeka decided to focus on sustainability and a healthier menu with options like salads, wraps and vegetarian fare that are made with local, organic ingredients. Although he doesn’t regularly shop at farmers’ markets now, he said he believes the new measures can benefit his business.
“I buy as much as I can locally, and sometimes it gets tough with prices and locations,” Zeka said. “It’s hard now, too because a lot of the markets are closed for the season, but when summer starts and the Amish market has produce I’ll usually order cases of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from them.”
The Amish market is a nice addition to Main Campus, Zeka said, but if more could establish a presence as well, a wider variety of ingredients could be provided. The newly implemented regulations could benefit those who are interested in opening farmers’ markets, from truck owners to students.
Zeka said he believes more markets around Main Campus, in addition to the Amish market that visits weekly during warmer weather, would benefit many people – specifically, it could make his menu cheaper if he’s able save on necessary ingredients.
“I would consider shopping at a farmers’ market if there were one close by,” Zeka said. “More places to get ingredients would mean that the prices would go down as well. If it’s closer to me and easier for me, it would definitely happen.”
Katie Martin, a junior marketing major, said a dependably regular farmers’ market would provide cheaper, healthier food for Main Campus.
“Grocery stores are so expensive to shop in, but with farmers’ markets you’re able to get more items for a better price, and it’s so much fresher,” Martin said. “Plus, when you buy produce at the grocery store and it’s not in season, you’re probably eating something that’s genetically modified.”
Organic options are something Sexy Green Truck advertises, but Zeka said he isn’t worried that more farmers’ markets could potentially be competition for the trucks.
“We’re a more healthy truck than any of the trucks on campus, so we try to have good ingredients to begin with,” Zeka said. “A farmers’ market nearby would only add to the content and value of our dishes, which would hopefully bring more people to the truck.”
Some students said dining hall options are not worth the prices they are marked at and that meal plans are priced too high. Galit Brodie, a junior graphic design major, said additional farmers’ markets in the area would have the potential to educate students on healthy eating and food choices.
“People always eat all the gross food on campus that definitely isn’t healthy, and when they go home they may not know how to cook or have the resources, or they’re just lazy and order out,” Brodie said. “I would personally buy fewer processed foods if I shopped at a farmers’ market, especially if it were close to Temple, because it’d be easier to carry items home.”
The Department of Public Health plans to work with market operators to assist new markets with things like food sampling and cooking demonstrations, along with the release of a “Market Operators Manual.”
“Buying locally has always been something important to me as a business owner in the Philadelphia area,” Zeka said. “When we support each other, we can do great things.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.