North Central Philadelphia: Farmers Markets Bring Food and Business]

When seeing pitched tents and tables covered in fresh fruits and vegetables while strolling through a community chances are that scene is a farmers market — a one stop shop where people can go to get fresh produce usually straight from the farm at some of the lowest prices available.

Philadelphia is known for its abundance of farmers markets scattered across the city. With over 35 farmers markets, Philadelphian’s show an apparent love for fresh produce in numerous neighborhoods.

Joe Yeoell is one of the volunteers at the Farmer's Market on 23rd St. and Berks St.

How exactly do these farmers markets come to be exactly? According to most markets initially start off as an idea by a group of farmers, a neighborhood association, a local chamber of commerce or in some cases a single individual. The initial idea can set off meetings and begin to form the proper connections to help get the idea off the ground.

Farmers markets are exactly like traditional retail businesses except these entities usually do not operate from brick-&-mortar store space. The markets can vary in size depending on the amount of product and vendors involved. Small markets are usually run or supported by one farmer where the larger ones are usually composed of multiple farmers or vendors.

They are normally run outside during the spring and fall seasons yet there are some such markets that run year-round. Like any normal business an upstart needs a strong foundation to be a successful market.

The most popular business structures for farmers markets are as a non-profit entity. These markets are dedicated to serve and prosper the communities where they are located. Under-developed and under-served communities have a large demand for food and a non-profit market is created to help meet those needs. These markets are important to their relative location.

Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management recently opened a farmers market in a under-privileged North Philadelphia area. This market operates under a non-profit structure due to funding from STHM Broad of Visitors Chairman Steven Korman who is the CEO of Korman Communities.

Michelle McFarland, one of the volunteers, was one of the people responsible for bringing a Farmer's Market to the community.

The Rodale Institute lists four basic principles to start a farmers market correctly in any community. These principles are: have a business plan, find qualified vendors, offer a wide variety of products and always balance the number of vendors to anticipated customers.

Finding the proper location is one of the most key components because a terrible location can greatly impact the success of the market. If the market is not accessible to a targeted consumer base market operators may lose vendors.  Vendors need to feel like a profit is being made in order for them to continue to be part of the market.

Loretta Stevens is a neighborhood resident who attends the North Philadelphia farmers market ran by STHM. Stevens believes in the importance of farmers markets and what they offer.

‘Its very convenient and I’m able to share the food with all my neighbors and friends and my daughters. The quantity is excellent and so is the food. It’s always excellent to incorporate fruits and vegetables in your diet.”

Customers pick out the fruits and vegetables at an affordable price.

A community must also be interested in placing a market and also valuing its importance. If the interest to shop there is not apparent the market cannot flourish. Most successful markets have a major community involvement.

An example of a neighborhood valuing its market is the neighborhood volunteers who consistently give up their free time on weekends to help out at the STHM farmers market.

“I sacrifice going to mosque every single Saturday to be here at the market” volunteer Michelle McFarland said.

Darnell Travis, a resident of St. Elizabeth Recovery Center said, “Some of us come out here and help set up and afterward buy our own fresh fruits and groceries, things I normally don’t have the chance or money to get.”

Money and sponsorship is also very integral to farmers’ market success. Funding and sponsorship support will help pay for the services and food provided. Farmers’, local governments, non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce, or other entities can back a market. The support of many is best to take some of the load and burden off just one entity.

The markets in Philadelphia serve many purposes. Commonly they are located in places where an abundance of people collect and socialize. The market located on 25th and Spruce is conveniently located next to Schuylkill River Park.

Many of the customers were people strolling through the park or dog owners taking their pet on an afternoon stroll. The small market was ran by one vendor but seemed to get adequate business.

This market operated during a weekday in the afternoon. The Farmers Market Coalition indicates that operating hours usually occur during Saturday but it is not uncommon to see a weekday market. It gives the interested customers who work during the week a chance to attend the market and shop. It’s all dependent upon the needs and availability of the community members.

For more information on farmers markets’ has a fact sheet for prospective managers and organizers broken into seven categories. The resources were made available from numerous entries from market leaders across the nation.



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