The KSQ Farmers Market opens for its 23rd summer season this month. In the first part of a “behind the scenes” series on this beloved community institution, Market Manager Ros Fenton shares some of her passion, joy, and dreams for the market.
Fenton’s answer to the question ‘What does a farmers market manager do?’ might be surprising. “My primary job is connecting people,” she says. “Connecting farmers and food producers to the community, connecting community members to the people who grow their food and to each other.” These relationships also connect people with the land and the seasons and enable them to bring those connections into their homes and onto their tables.
This entire ecosystem directly addresses the various kinds of disconnection individuals experience and supports them in leading healthier, more connected, lives.
True growers markets, like the KSQ Farmers Market, provide people with access to fresh local food and products, enabling them to support local agriculture and strengthen the local economy while feeding themselves and their families with local seasonal food. Locally grown food is not only the healthiest food local people can eat—it’s also the most flavorful.
A casual observer passing the collection of tents at the Creamery on any given Friday afternoon might easily miss the care, thought, and deep intentionality behind this gathering of producers curated to bring customers the best variety of fresh, seasonal local food and products available that particular week. While the market’s casual, celebratory atmosphere may give the appearance of a pop-up event, everything—from the layout of the space to the red wagons provided for customer convenience and the particular combination of producers—is carefully planned.
Fenton spends countless hours taking care of all of the tiny details and larger logistical considerations that create a great place for growers and for consumers to enjoy connecting. Her job involves everything from putting up signage and setting up and breaking down each week to developing strong relationships with producers and sharing their stories. She engages with the community at local events to promote the market and works with community partners like the Kennett Library and others to develop activities and special events at the market. Throughout the year she connects with other market managers, attends trainings, and develops new ideas. One of her particular goals this season is to continue to work to diversify the market and also to make it more accessible to a broader part of the community through the SNAP program. A farmers market manager’s work is never done.
Fenton also works hard to bring balance and variety to the market every week, fitting the puzzle pieces of weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly producers together to create each market’s unique configuration. It’s no accident that customers find a selection of the season’s best produce, mushrooms, meat, baked goods, dairy, and more every Friday. Fenton is in regular communication with producers to find out what they will be bringing to market—including what’s in season and newly in season—and then shares that information, along with pre-order information, payment options, weather-related updates, and more with customers through the weekly market newsletter and on social media.
The win-win-win of supporting local agriculture
Because the KSQ Farmers Market is a producers-only market, careful planning also goes into finding the producers who are part of the market. Unlike a farm market, where customers will find locally grown items alongside merchandise that’s brought in from elsewhere, KSQ Farmers Market customers know that they’re buying directly from producers and supporting them with 100 percent of their purchase. “That transparency is important,” Fenton says, “and it’s important that people know where their food is coming from.”
Fenton is also passionate about helping people understand seasonality. “There’s nothing like the taste of those first just-picked, sun-ripened strawberries that you’ve been waiting for,” she says. “They simply taste better—and they’re full of nutritional benefits that strawberries that have been refrigerated and shipped thousands of miles don’t offer. Waiting for these foods to come into season can be hard, but the anticipation is also fun and rewarding when you get into the mindset.”
Eating local food in season has enormous environmental benefits as well. “From the farmer’s standpoint, seasonality is also about working with nature instead of against it,” Fenton says. Regenerative practices like crop rotation, cover cropping, and composting are all part of local farmers’ daily, year-round work to prepare for the harvest they bring to market. “Our local growers are dealing with the effects of climate change every day. It’s getting more difficult with every season—which is another important reason to support these growers.”
People are realizing the benefits of supporting local farms, producers, and businesses and keeping our local economy strong. But the return to health—of ourselves and those we feed, of our local farms and agricultural economy, and ultimately of our planet—will require many more people to become conscious and intentional consumers. The strength and resilience of our local food system depends on that support.
Lots in store for a new season
Customers will find between 18 and 20 vendors, in addition to various community partners, at market each week this season. “Lots of favorites will be returning to the market over the coming weeks,” Fenton says, “in addition to some new faces.”
In the produce department, Swallow Hill is back with their fine produce home grown with love, as is Flying Plow Farm, Bright Spot farm, Honeymoon Farm with mushrooms, and Rex Farms Orchard. Family Tree Plantsis back for the season, and King’s Sweet Corn and Produce and Walnut Hill Flower Farm will both be at the market every week starting in June. Other weekly vendors include Green Lion / Heart Stone bakery, Taste of Puebla, and Tat’s Yummies.
Lindenhof Farm, a multi-generational farm in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania, will be the new weekly meat and poultry vendor at market every Friday. Chadds Ford-based micro coffee roastery Cookie’s Caffé will be at market every other week, as will new vendors Nutty Novelties, Dad & Will’s Microgreens, and Rocker Soaps. Also new, local kombucha maker Tiny Changes Brewing will be there once a month. Other new vendors this season include Fifth Dimension Farm, a cricket farm based in Landenberg, who will be bringing protein-packed dog treats made with crickets, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter, each month. Snarky Bark and Saint Rocco’s Treats will also be at market monthly with dog treats. (Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome at market, Fenton notes.)
Returning bi-weekly favorites include Brandywine Bee Co., Amazing Acres, Birchrun Hills Farm, Aunt Mamie’s, Mediterranean Delicacy, Locust Hollow Sheep Farm, Fiddle Creek Dairy, Cocky Gourmet Confections, Botanical Bubbles, Valentine Chocolate Co., Whiskey Hollow Maple, and My Greens Microgreens. Returning monthly vendors include Sundry Mornings and Swheat Escape.
The best way to stay up to date with all the latest vendor and product updates and pre-ordering options is to sign up to receive the weekly KSQ Farmers Market newsletter.
A weekly ritual that unites us all to our community
The KSQ Farmers Markets has been one of the key programs for Kennett Collaborative for decades. It’s helped to create that sense of place we all now identify with Kennett Square, but the growth of the market since the pandemic began has helped people to see beyond the pretty white tents and colorful displays and buzz that the market creates. It’s a fun, connectional community event that happens every Friday. But it’s also an important place to do as much of your shopping as possible. We’re very grateful to Ros for all of her hard work, thoughtfulness, and creativity. Market sponsors like Harvest Market, Arthur Hall Insurance, Lester Water, Organic Mechanics, WasteWell, and WorKS are a key part of the market’s ongoing success.
At an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the KSQ Farmers Market in 2019, customers used words like friendship, conversations, and laughter as well as fresh, local, and nourishing. As one person said, “The KSQ Farmers Market is a weekly ritual that unites us all to our community, our food, our place.”