Why buy perfectly ripe, still-warm-from-the-sun fruit and vegetables directly from the farmer who grew them when you can buy produce that has been sprayed with chemicals and flown and trucked in from around the world? Why buy freshly made bread, pasta, desserts, or local honey, meat, cheese, and eggs, when you could buy plastic-packaged products packed with preservatives? Why breathe in the fresh air and community spirit of a local farmers market when you could dodge the crowds in a brightly lit chain store?
Flavor, variety, and health and nutrition, in addition to reducing food miles and negative environmental impact, strengthening the local economy and food system, and supporting community are only a few of the many reasons why shopping at a local farmers market is important.
Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen: Growers and Producers
At their core, farmers markets are about supporting farmers. At a time when many restaurant sales and other outlets for farmers are down, the income farmers receive at farmers markets is a lifeline. “One hundred percent of your hard-earned food dollar goes directly to the the hard-working people who grew, harvested, or made what you’re buying,” says KSQ Farmers Market Manager Ros Fenton. “Compare that to a 2019 USDA figure of just 14.3 cents of every dollar going to the farmer when you buy at a large retailer.”
In addition to circulating money back into our local economy, there are significant environmental benefits to supporting Pennsylvania’s small and diversified farms. Longtime and well- loved KSQ Farmers Market vendors Douglas and Elizabeth Randolph of Swallow Hill Farm use organic and regenerative practices on their farm in Cochranville to bring “fine produce home grown with love” to the market every week. Like all farmers, they contend with the effects of climate change every day. “As farmers, weather is always on our minds, especially now as we face extended heat waves and possible drought,” Elizabeth says. “As we’ve transplanted broccolini, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts during the past couple weeks, we’ve done our best to be kind to them. We try to soften the blow of 90-degree-plus temperatures and intense sun with thorough drinks of water and soil-cooling mulches of oat straw. But we can only do so much. Some of the plants may not survive.”
Being able to meet and encourage, and be encouraged by, those who grow our food is a privilege. This connection also grounds us and helps us appreciate more deeply what we often take for granted. “We are constantly amazed by both the fragility and resiliency of Nature,” Elizabeth says. “The Brussels sprouts went in during the first heat wave, and we fussed and worried over them for a week as they wilted and hid from the sun. This week they look healthy and strong, ready to take on the challenge of growing tall and producing sprouts for Thanksgiving.”
Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen: A Market Manager Is a “Gifted Composer”
Every Friday, over twenty vendors set up outside The Creamery on Birch Street to be ready to sell the freshest, most delicious, and most beautiful of their products at 3pm. They all bring something unique and different, and together they offer the seasonal completeness of the rich fertile farmland of Southern Chester County. With a selection of weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly growers and producers that’s carefully curated for variety and quality, an excellent weekly newsletter and regular social media updates, an organized and attractive layout for customers, convenient parking, clear signage, a commitment to education and sustainability, and a friendly welcome on Friday afternoons, the KSQ Farmers Market is second to none. None of this is an accident—many hours of preparation go into bringing the market to life each week.
This year’s theme for National Farmers Market Week is “Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen.” The celebration highlights the three key ingredients of a successful farmers market—a market manager, the growers and producers, and the community that supports the market.
“Farmers markets are abundant sources of food, connection, and resilience in our communities across the country, but they don’t just happen on their own,” says National Farmers Market Coalition Executive Director Ben Feldman. “Behind the scenes of every successful farmers market is a dedicated person or team working to make the market thrive. These farmers market operators are experts who need community and financial support to run their markets and resources specifically designed for their needs.”
KSQ Farmers Market Manager Ros Fenton, an employee of Kennett Collaborative, exemplifies the expertise, dedication, care, and creativity necessary to run a market that gives both customers and vendors the best possible experience throughout the year.
While Fenton is always the first to highlight the hard work and dedication of the farmers who bring the fruits of their labors to market, the gratitude is very much reciprocated. They appreciate that Fenton creates a special ambiance and a unique event every single week—whatever the weather.
“I think of Ros as a gifted composer with exquisite composure,” says Elizabeth Randolph. “She orchestrates each market with great creativity and thought, yet makes it look effortless. Each week she writes the score for a vibrant, healthy market and calmly handles countless details and all sorts of situations, both expected and unexpected, with weather being one of them. When I go to market on these blazing hot Friday afternoons with threats of storms, Ros’s calm, sweet smile is like a cool breeze in the woods. I know everything will be alright at market.”
Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen: Community
The third essential ingredient of a successful farmers market, in addition to the growers and the market manager, is faithful customers. The KSQ Farmers Market, now in its 22nd season, has been growing community support for decades. Fenton is grateful for the countless customers and generous sponsors who keep the market going. In a community the size of Kennett, with so many people who are passionate about good food and health and understand the critical importance of local food systems, Fenton also knows there’s lots of room for growth. Generous 2022 market sponsors Harvest Market, Lester Water, and Organic Mechanics, she says, are an essential part of the market’s ongoing viability.
Like farmers markets across the country, the KSQ Farmers Market is a hub for local economies and connection and plays a key role in developing resilience in the community. “This season the market has served as a donation point for KACS. We’ve collected many pounds of non-perishables to feed people in our community. Also through the generosity of our customers and growers, we’ve been able to support Chef Jamilah Abdullah of Kennett Brewing Company with donations for her mutual aid organization Free Food For All Delaware,” says Fenton. “We’ve also continued to strengthen our network of partnerships with other local organizations, for example through collaborations with the Kennett Library and The Creamery to bring the Tree Talks series to our community. We’re continuing to work on making the market more accessible and equitable. Several of our farms accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks, and we’re working with the Chester County Food Bank and the local WIC office to expand our reach. One of our farms, Flying Plow Farm, can now accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments—something we hope to offer market-wide in the near future.”
Farmers markets don’t just happen. They happen thanks to the hard work of farmers and producers and market managers. And they only happen with the support of community members like you. There’s never been a better time to shop your local farmers market. In addition to the year-round KSQ Farmers Market every Friday at The Creamery from 3pm to 6pm, local residents can also check out the New Garden Growers Market(May–November) and the West Chester Growers Market (weekly May–December and bi-weekly January–April) on Saturday mornings.
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The KSQ Farmers Market is a program of Kennett Collaborative, a nonprofit that works to help make Kennett thrive by intentionally creating programs and events that help Kennett become a more beautiful and welcoming community where all can belong and prosper.