Eating healthy, wholesome and local is no longer a privilege but a possibility for everyone in West Philadelphia, thanks to Livengood Family Farms.
Entering its 15th year of selling Lancaster, Pennsylvania-grown produce and vegetables, Livengood Family Farms has become one of Clark Park Farmers Market’s biggest vendors.
Dwain Livengood and his family are at the center of it all, being a fan favorite of West Philadelphia buyers. Livengood believes his products entered the farmer’s market scene at the perfect time.
“This is a unique market, a little bit unique in that it’s year round,” said Livengood. “In the early ’90s it was kind of unusual to find an outdoor market and we did several. This is one that we added along the way, and we have grown with the market and what we offer.”
It is no surprise West Philadelphia customers are thrilled by the growth of Livengood. A six-year customer of the Clark Park Farmers Market, Michael Bomze, continues to come back to the Livengood stand for the fresh food and to contribute to the local food movement.
“[Livengood] is kind of famous for their spinach,” said Bomze. “In the winter time it gets really sweet and it sells out pretty fast. Instead of buying [meat] at Whole Foods or Acme even, you know it’s nice to support a local company and farm like Livengood.”
Livengood credits its flavorful and fresh products to the lands of Lancaster.
“Lancaster County soil is amazing in that it gives flavor to vegetables not every farm can boast,” said Livengood. “We are humble recipients of that, but we are proud to offer that here.”
One of the most unique things about Clark Park Farmers Market is not necessarily its location, but their forms of payment, including food stamps, WIC checks and Senior FMNP vouchers. Food Trust, the organization that sponsors the farmers market program at Clark Park, has been a staple for the market for the last 20 years. For the past 10 years, Clark Park Farmers Market has been making it possible for everyone to afford fresh local products with the acceptance of food stamps.
Vendors like Livengood couldn’t be more supportive.
“Food stamps, plastic, it has all been a growing curve for a direct marketer,” said Livengood. “The Food Trust here has been very helpful in establishing a central point for food stamp sales and it has worked so well for a lot of people. Sales have definitely seen an increase over the last couple of years”
Shortly after the acceptance of food stamps at the market, Food Trust introduced the Philly Food Bucks program. The incentive program offers an additional two dollars to spend on fruits and vegetables for every five dollars spent with food stamps, allowing people to stretch their budget by an additional 40 percent. Lisa Kelly, the program associate for Food Trust, loves that food stamps not only benefit customers, but the market as well.
“It encourages people to try new things,” said Kelly. “It is a great way to support all of the farmers. All of that money goes right back to the farmers. It is a great way to help their businesses, while helping people stretch their dollar on local fresh food.”
Sarah Warrner, a newcomer to the market, recounted the first time she saw someone use food stamps at the Livengood stand.
“When they told me they allowed people to pay with food stamps, I was shocked and really pleasantly surprised,” said Warren. “It is really impressive to see a vendor accept so many forms of payment. It’s awesome to know someone doesn’t have to be more well-off or upper-middle class to afford local, fresh food.”
Location is key for any successful business and Livengood is grateful for finding this market location to sell at in West Philadelphia.
“We are 70 miles away from this market location and that makes it incredibly convenient for both the farmer and the customer to stop in and to share both what we offer and the best of the freshest in season,” said Livengood.
— Text, images and video by Erin Patterson and Kate Reilly.