Farmers on the Square, Carlisle, Penn.

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010

farmers market in Carlisle, Penn.

The good folks of Carlisle, Pa., would never support a farmers market where only actual farmers would sell fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses they  produced themselves on their own farms. So said skeptics on the Downtown Development Council, according to Sandra Miller, who helped launch the producer-only farmers market that I found alive and well, now wrapping up its second summer, on the town square in downtown Carlisle. The market was bigger and busier than ever this year, says Miller, who raises goats on Painted Hand Farm in Newburg and sells the meat along with heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables at the market.

Farmers on the Square Market
W. High St and N. Hanover St.
Carlisle, Penn.
Wednesdays,  3 to 7 p.m.

The skeptics on the council, says Miller, were the brains behind another so-called “farmers market” that gave it a go in Carlisle for a couple of years but flamed out.

That market occupied a fancy 7,800-square-foot structure, a historic building that was renovated with hundreds of thousands of dollars of redevelopment grant money.

As I reported on Seasonal Chef’s Truly Local blog early last year, while that venue was billed as a “farmers market” that would showcase the bounty from local farms, vendors were allowed to sell practically anything they wanted, from miscellaneous bric-a-brac to cut-rate wholesale produce trucked in from across the continent. Miller was one of a small number of real farmers from the region around Carlisle who tried to make it at that market, and struggled in vain to encourage the management to adopt rules that would enable it to become a truly local farmers market. They eventually gave up, and made plans to start a market of their own, to be run by actual farmers.

The Farmers on the Square market is what came of those efforts. The defectors from the defunct market were joined by other farmers who didn’t have the stomach to give the other one a try. “There were resellers at that market, and there are farmers here who would not sell next to them. It’s a matter of principle,” Miller says.

The Farmers on the Square market, in contrast, is  run by farmers for the benefit of consumers who want to know where their food comes from and want to support local agriculture. As the market’s web site declares, “Our vendors live and work within 50 miles of Carlisle, so ours really is a local market…. Eating fresh local food is healthier, tastier, enhances life in our community and supports our economy!”

The market, which started with a dozen farmers, now has as many as 16. The market grossed $100,000 last year and will top that by a large margin when all is said and done this year, Miller says.

–Mark Thompson

Slide Show

What I Bought

pear varieties
Four varieties of pears (top)

Asian pear, nectarine, plum and pluot (bottom)
Price: $3/lb.

 This market is the place to go for anyone wanting to try naturally-raised meat. There are 10 different kinds of meat from local farmers on sale, says Sandra Miller, who sells meat from goats that are naturally browsed on her Painted Hand Farm. Other types of meat at the market include grass-fed, organic beef, pastured poultry, humanely raised veal, as well as rabbit, duck, turkey and geese. I would have stocked up, and reported on, the interesting array of meats at this market. But I’m here at the start of a road trip that will take me to Pittsburgh and up to Toronto, far from my refrigerator back in Blawenburg , N.J. So I gravitate towards proteins that are more transportable, and find what I need in that department in the form of cheese and edamame soybeans.

fresh edamame soybeans
edamame soybeans
Price: $2/bunch

The large bundle of edamame that I purchased, still on the bush, is from the farm at Dickinson College, one of the mainstays at the Farmers on the Square market. The college, located a few blocks west of the square, has a bustling 180-acre farm outside of town, with six to eight acres in intensive food production at any given time. It produces a significant percentage of the food served in the dining hall on campus, with plenty left over to supply a 70-family CSA in town and to keep a stand at the farmers market well supplied with an attractive array of produce.

heirloom tomatoes

pineapple tomatoes
Price: $4 for 3 large tomatoes

 pepper varieties

a selection of sweet and hot peppers
Price: $1 for 10 hot peppers
$1 for 2 sweet peppers

giant butternut squash

Carlisle, Penn. cheese

butternut squash (left) and two types of cheese

Price: $3/butternut squash