Pottstown Market serves wholesome meals and neighborhood enjoyable | life-style
With the nice, warm weather we had, farmers markets not only offer a wonderful opportunity to spend time outdoors and get access to fresh and healthy local produce, but also the chance to meet new and familiar faces from the community see.
Pottstown FARM recently started its 6th season bringing fresh farm produce to an urban setting. The market is located on Smith Plaza in front of Pottstown Borough Hall and is held every other Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“In the first week we had over 700 visitors,” said Sheila Dugan, director of the market and one of the founders. “People are very excited to be outside.”
Over the past few years, the farmers’ market has had around 400 visitors to each market, so Dugan was delighted with such an impressive number of visitors on the opening day.
“I think we have a really great market this year,” Dugan said of one of the reasons she thought it was so well attended. “We worked really hard to get there.”
Dugan has found she has been contacted by many vendors this year to join the market. Some even had to refuse them because the offer is already on the market.
“We’re trying to do it so that business is really good,” she said.
Overall, she feels that people are finally realizing that the market exists.
“The word gets out that people are hearing about it and it’s super exciting,” she said. “We have said for years that people said, ‘We didn’t know you were here’.”
Last year the market stayed open despite restrictions due to COVID, but Dugan had to install special fences to direct traffic to one side and the other to ensure safety. Masks and social distancing were also required, but everything is back to normal this year.
“We’re encouraging masks now, but we’re not pushing it through so much,” said Dugan. “We have some autoimmune providers so we try to have some security but people have to make their own choices.”
Since it was founded in 2014, the concept of the market has not only been geared towards offering locally grown food, but also a meeting place.
“There’s a lot of community and people coming together,” said Dugan.
In addition to farmers and artisans, the market has some unique programs to serve the community to encourage people to buy healthier, fresher foods.
“We have a program with the SNAP card where we give them a $ 5 coin that they can spend in the market when they spend $ 10 on the SNAP card,” Dugan said.
They also have a Two Bite Club set up for kids under 12 to encourage them to try new foods. In each market, the club offers them a different product to try and when they do they are given a $ 5 coin to spend in the market.
“I’m surprised to see that they choose the healthy stuff rather than the cookies and cupcakes,” Dugan said, adding that after trying a new type of fruit or vegetable they have never eaten before has to irritate it seems to be interested in healthier choices.
“This is a really nice opportunity for these kids to explore these things that they would never see,” she said.
The $ 5 coins are funded by local grants. The Two Bite Club is sponsored by Pottstown Tower Health and the SNAP program is funded by Hill School’s Hobart’s Run neighborhood initiative along with its Student Philanthropy Council.
Dugan’s aim is to help dispel what people believe is misconception that farmers’ markets are more expensive than supermarkets.
“We want people to know that they can buy and afford healthy food,” she said. “Hopefully it will encourage people to try fresh produce and not look for the less healthy foods.”
Additionally, Dugan emphasized that when compared to a grocery store, farmers markets provide access to unique things that cannot be found elsewhere.
“The pepper jam that you can’t find in the supermarket, the pickled vegetables from the region and the fresh root beer,” she said.
This fall, Dugan looks forward to bringing back a program called Create with the Community, which gives market-goers the opportunity to cook with working members of the community like police officers to learn how to use foods they are unfamiliar with.
“The goal is to teach people how to use things like squash,” she said.
In addition to the care she shows towards the members of the community, Dugan has the same care, concern and consideration for the vendors in the market.
She expressed her pride in seeing how the market has helped some local businesses thrive over the years.
“A lot of artisans and local businesses started out in the farmers market and now they’re thriving,” she said.