National Farmers Market Week (August 7-13, 2016) finds us at the peak of many popular summer crops’ productivity. Sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and, of course, tomatoes are abundant at the markets, along with more exotic options such as eggplants and tomatillos. Wherever you live, now is a great time to get to your local farmers’ market to enjoy the fresh-picked flavors of summer.
Cooking demos using produce from the market have been a hit at the Sacred Heart market.
Patrons get to see and sample delicious ways to prepare the organic veggies they buy!
At the Rodale Institute’s Organic Allentown Markets at Sacred Heart Hospital (Thursdays from 3-6 p.m.) and the Allentown YMCA/YWCA (Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), customers have been thrilled by the selection of veggies, herbs, and other tasty treats that we bring from the farm each week. Since I started helping with the markets in late June, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the “regulars” at each location—the ASC subscribers who come each week to pick up their shares and the community members who look forward to shopping at the market.
It’s fun—and sometimes surprising—to see what’s popular with our customers and to hear what motivates their choices. Beets nearly always sell out when we have them because their sweet flavor makes them a favorite among folks who turn their vegetables into juices and smoothies. Likewise for kale, while collards are a frequent request by folks looking to make traditional cooked greens.
Farmers Market at the Allentown YMCA/YWCA | Organic beet greens, yellow beans and red onions salad - prepared at the Sacred Heart market
Of course, everyone wants tomatoes, even at the earliest markets of the season before the tomatoes have started producing. And fruits of any sort are highly prized, too. Part of the job of running the markets is to help our guests understand and appreciate the seasonal and local nature of our produce: we only have melons when they are vine-ripened and ready for harvest here on the farm, and we don’t have bananas ever.
At the Sacred Heart location, visitors often mention that their doctor has instructed them to add more vegetables to their diet to address particular health concerns. We hear that at the Y, too, but also that customers who are there to exercise are making a conscious decision to choose fruits and vegetables to maintain good health. Lots of people comment that they want to buy organic foods to feed their families, and it’s especially exciting to see the guests shopping with SNAP benefits who are able to buy twice as much produce through the Double SNAP program.
Face painting has been popular with guests of all ages at both markets. Our talented friend Alyssa adorns faces with sharks, tigers, dragons, and more, giving parents a free moment to shop for veggies.
As the season progresses, we continue to add features at each market to make it fun and inviting to visit our stands. Local artist Alyssa Tauber has been offering face painting at both the Y and at Sacred Heart, and we’ve had cooking demonstrations, arranged by nutrition educator Kristina Parise of Second Harvest Food Bank, that have yielded tasty samples of dishes prepared with all-organic ingredients straight from our markets! Coming soon: cooking demos at the Y market on Saturdays!
Hope to see you at one of our markets sometime soon! Come out and see what’s fresh!
Deb Martin is an intern/market assistant for the Rodale Institute’s Organic Allentown Farmers Markets. She is a long-time fan of farm-fresh food and producer-only farm markets and is the author of books about composting, organic gardening, and wild bird feeding. In her spare time she tends her gardens and compost piles at her home near Allentown.