Monday, July 16, 2007

Buy Fresh Buy Local: Oakmont Farmers Market Update

As Buy Fresh Buy Local week kicks off in the greater Philadelphia area, I though it would be apropos to give a little progress report on the first season at the Oakmont Farmers Market. Coming into the mid-stretch of summer, all accounts are that the market is alive and thriving. The farmers I’ve had the opportunity to chat with have unanimously expressed their satisfaction and even surprise with the crowd and sales levels at the market. It’s been a pleasant surprise to me as well, as it’s great to see the community coming out to embrace change and to find so many people enthusiastic about locally grown food.

In addition to all of the benefits – economic, social, health, environmental – it helps to build enthusiasm about buying local when the products are just plain good. Quality sometimes does speak for itself. I’ve found it on a weekly basis in the beautiful produce from North Star Orchards and Blueberry Hill Farm, in the delicious raw honey from Fruitwood Orchards Honey Farm, the richly flavored eggs from Lindenhof Farm, the greens from Willing Hands and the ground buffalo from Backyard Bison. It’s also impossible not to enjoy the purity and intensity of some of the more fleeting flavors of the season. You’ll never find black raspberries like those from Blueberry Hill at the supermarket. And to keep things exciting, new produce seems to come into rotation just about every week. White peaches made their first appearance two weeks ago while yellow peaches and sweet corn made their debuts this past Wednesday. The first crop of garlic that Julie Barrett of Willing Hands brought this week, plucked from the ground that morning, was mind blowingly good.

From a demographic perspective, I’m also happy to report that the audience at the market seems to be diversifying from week to week. In an earlier post inspired by a lengthy conversation with a representative of PASA, I had reported rather bleakly on the level of participation by males at the market. I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks that the male to female ratio seems, indeed, to have rounded out to a slightly more balanced aspect, say 2.5:10 as opposed to the 1:10 ratio I had originally cited. Additionally, more and more parents have been bringing their kids, providing a great opportunity for the younger members of our community to learn about food, to meet real farmers and to have fun in an open environment.

If you’ve been enjoying the Oakmont Market or one like it in your own neighborhood, or if you’d just like to learn more about the benefits of buying fresh, local, sustainable produce, here are some links you may find useful:

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