Farmer's markets go where the people are - workplaces, universities, transportation hubs

Posted: June 06, 2014

What better way to reach people with the "eat fresh and local" message than to go where they work, study, commute, or pray?

Neighborhood squares, parks and parking lots still host many farmer's markets in the region, but more and more are operating out of workplaces, universities, transportation hubs, and places of worship.

This spring, new markets are coming to Drexel University, the U.S. General Services Administration offices in Center City, two neighborhood churches, and Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the synagogue on North Broad Street.

"Taking the market directly to the people definitely helps to get the word out and makes it a little bit easier to connect the dots," says Nicky Uy of the Food Trust, which manages 28 markets in Philadelphia and one in Chester City.

Locally, the harsh winter has delayed some crops at least a week to 10 days, causing some markets to open late, according to Douglas H. Fisher, N.J. secretary of agriculture.

But fear not. "There will be plenty of kale," he says. (New Jersey farmed about 500 acres of it in 2013.)

While shoppers cherish old standbys such as corn and tomatoes, Fisher says cauliflower is coming on strong, as are ethnic specialties like fenugreek, known as "Indian parsley."

And a handful of markets now sell fresh Jersey fish, including the Food Trust's Headhouse Square and Greener Pastures' Ambler. Greener Pastures was founded by Ben Bergman, formerly of Farm to City, who will also run the Parkwood market in the city's Far Northeast.

According to the nonprofit Farmers Market Coalition, there are now 152 farmer's markets within 50 miles of Philadelphia, including in South Jersey.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture counted 1,755 in 1994 and 8,144 in 2013. Most are seasonal; others, such as Farm to City's Bryn Mawr, Chestnut Hill, and Rittenhouse Square markets, are year-round.

Total annual sales at U.S. farmer's markets are estimated at $1 billion. But ask any farmer, or shopper, for that matter: There's more to this than money.

"These farmers are taking time out from their real world of growing and harvesting to stand all day and sell, so, of course, it has to be worth their while," says Shelley Chamberlain, assistant director of Jefferson University Hospital's nutrition and dietetics department and the inspiration for its weekly market, which opened in 2008.

"But the farmers also have relationships with the patrons," she says. "They talk. They know each other. It's such a wonderful thing."

Jefferson's market, in the 900 block of Chestnut Street, is operated by Farm to City, which has 16 others in the region this year. Two Lancaster County and South Jersey farmers sell produce, beef, and eggs from pastured animals, jams, baked goods, and honey to about 200 people a week, 60 percent from Jefferson and 40 percent from the community.

Customers get super-fresh food, along with cooking demonstrations, seasonal recipes, and volunteers who answer questions about unfamiliar vegetables or nutrition.

"When you see people at the market buying fruits and vegetables, you know they're going home and incorporating them into their family meals," Chamberlain says. "Over time, you see them developing new habits, which is what we're trying to support."

The dietary impact of farmer's markets was documented in a 2010 survey of 37 markets run by Kaiser Permanente health care system in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Maryland. In the study, 74 percent of 2,435 patrons reported eating more fresh fruits and vegetables because of their workplace market. Almost as many said they were eating not just more, but a greater variety, of both.

Farm to City hopes to open Drexel's new market sometime this month in front of the new Chestnut Square student housing development in the 3200 block of Chestnut Street. The target audience is school staff and faculty; students will be on summer break from mid-June to mid-September.

Drexel had another market for five years but its only farmer had to drop out. The new iteration has two farmers and a jazzy new setting. "We chose Chestnut Square because it has quickly become a destination during lunch hour," says Drexel's Joe Russo, citing its many restaurants and shopping outlets.

Rabbi Eli C. Freedman is talking up Congregation Rodeph Shalom's new Sunday market, which the Food Trust will open in mid-July. With the synagogue's $15 million renovation and expansion, he sees the market as strong proof of the congregation's commitment to its diverse neighborhood.

Established in 1795, Rodeph Shalom serves 1,100 families, few in the immediate neighborhood but many just a few miles away in Fairmount, Queen Village, Rittenhouse Square, and Society Hill.

"I think many will travel here to the farmer's market," says Freedman, who also wants to attract "neighbors from all walks of life, regardless of income and background." Subsidies will be offered to low-income shoppers.

"Farmer's markets are about the food," he says, "but also about so much more."


Grilled Asparagus

Makes 4 servings

1 bunch of fresh asparagus

1 ounce extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1-2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 lemon, squeezed and juiced

1. Mix well: oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice and let sit at room temperature 1-2 hours.

2. Wash and towel-dry asparagus. Trim off bottom ΒΌ of spears.

3. Brush spears with oil-seasoning mixture, reserving half.

4. Grill on medium heat for 2-3 min. per side until tender and starting to char a little.

5. Remove and place on a serving platter & drizzle with remaining seasoned oil.

- From Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Per serving: 96 calories; 4 grams protein; 7 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams sugar; 7 grams fat; no cholesterol; 240 milligrams sodium; 4 grams dietary fiber.


Season's Best Grilled Salmon Fillets

Makes 4 servings

11/2 pounds salmon fillets

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Fresh pepper to taste

1. Cut salmon into 6-ounce pieces.

2. Rub fillets with garlic, sea salt, and pepper and refrigerate 1 hour.

3. In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and olive oil.

4. Place salmon and wet mix in a gallon zip-lock storage bag to submerge fillets.

5. Refrigerate for no more than 2 hours.

6. Remove and discard marinade.

7. Grill over medium heat for 6-8 min. per side. Turn every 3-4 minutes to make crisscross grill marks.

- From Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Per serving: 269 calories; 33 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams sugar; 13 grams fat; 75 milligrams cholesterol; 360 milligrams sodium; no dietary fiber.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Makes 8-10 servings

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons tapioca

1 tablespoon water

21/2 cups diced rhubarb

21/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 9-inch pie crusts

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

1. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, tapioca, and 1 tablespoon of water until thoroughly combined. Stir in the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Allow the mixture to stand for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place bottom crust into a 9-inch pie dish. Roll the remaining crust out into a 10-inch circle on a floured work surface, set aside.

3. Stir the filling, and pour into the prepared pie dish. Cut the remaining crust into 1-inch wide strips (use a scalloped-edge pastry cutter for a prettier crust). Moisten the rim of the filled bottom crust with a bit of water, and lay the two longest strips in a cross in the middle of the pie. Working from the next longest down to the shortest strips, alternate horizontal and vertical strips, weaving the strips as you go. Press the lattice strips down onto the bottom crust edge to seal, and trim the top crust strips neatly. Beat the egg white with 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl, and brush the entire lattice top with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Wrap aluminum foil strips around the edges of the pie.

4. Bake (on top of a sheet pan lined with foil, to catch drips) in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 more minutes. Remove the aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time. Allow pie to cool completely before serving.

- From Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Per serving (based on 10): 303 calories; 3 grams protein; 46 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams sugar; 13 grams fat; no cholesterol; 202 milligrams sodium; 2 grams dietary fiber.


vsmith@phillynews.com

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