Harvesting fresh food for the city

Posted: September 14, 2011

SURROUNDED BY the fried chicken, burger and doughnut joints that make even the air seem fattening around SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center, a farmers' market opened yesterday offering, to 16,000 daily commuters, just-picked peaches from the farmer who picked them and an abundance of fresh veggies.

Open Tuesday afternoons at Bridge Street and Bustleton Avenue, the market features tomatoes, apples and those peaches from Hands On Earth Orchard, in Lititz, Lancaster County, whose farmer, Dave Fahnestock, promised this reporter that if I tried one of his Cortland apples, I'd never go back to Red Delicious.

After the first "OMG!" bite, I never will.

"Once you taste really good fruit, you'll want to stick with it," said Fahnestock, who also grows Fuji, Gala and Honey Crisp apples. "I don't sell Red Delicious anymore."

After a woman chooses some of Fahnestock's fresh peaches, the Food Trust's Ben Bergman, who manages the new market, rings up the sale and tells her, "My pleasure, but it'll soon be your pleasure. Trust me on that."

Quentin Shirk, who farms Quaff Meadows, in Christiana, Lancaster County, shows up with his daughters and an eye-popping array of watermelons, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, beets, carrots, peppers, onions, lettuce, greens - and flowers.

Mayor Nutter's federally funded Get Healthy Philly program and the Food Trust - a nonprofit focused on fighting obesity by bringing fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods - have opened 10 farmers' markets since last year, most along heavily traveled transit routes. Nicky Uy, manager of the Food Trust's farmers' market program, said she hopes that the new one becomes a neighborhood hub, as others have, creating cultural awakenings on both sides of the produce stand.

"Farmers at our Germantown market, who never grew up eating collard greens, grow a lot of them now because their customers said they want them," Uy said.

She laughed at an early misunderstanding: "Farmers would say to me, 'Nicky, I'm harvesting the collard greens now and I'm putting them in little ziplock bags like basil, right?'

"I'd tell them, 'No! Think of them as kale or Swiss chard - not as baby collard greens. Nobody thinks baby collard greens in Germantown or North Philly.' We are a city that loves our greens!"

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