Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eight Down, Nineteen More to Go

Continuing with the Philly Food Feed Farmers Market Marathon, on Sunday my sister-in-law Emily accompanied Ethan and me to the Reading Terminal Farmers Market, directly across the street from the famous Philadelphia Reading Terminal, a location proving to be both boon and bust for this fledgling market. Because I had heard from a few people that this market had been plagued by drop-outs and light foot traffic, I wanted to take a look for myself as soon as I could.
It wasn't hard to park, at least not as hard as I thought it would be. Center City on a Sunday isn't that difficult to navigate and we only had to walk about 2 blocks to the market. The hot and humid weather already put Ethan in low spirits (thats French for really pissed), so if I wanted to talk to some of the vendors, I would have to make it quick. When we arrived we were pleased to find the offerings were not as barren as I had been lead to believe. I counted six vendors on my visit and the offerings included, but were not limited to local honey, goat cheese, tree fruit, and produce.

I spoke to Steve Bowes of Steve Bowes Organic Family Farm. Steve grows his food organically with no sprays and is a farmers market stalwart throughout the Central Pennsylvania farmers market scene. When I asked Steve about the drop-outs I had heard about (the market originally started with 8 vendors and as of last Sunday, it was down to seven, losing two and adding one - hardly a "plague"), he attributed it to the youth of those who left. He then told me that he has been in the local food business for over 40 years and after I sampled one of his sugar snap peas, it showed. I also purchased some handsome looking kale and Vidalia onions and my sister-in-law chose a nice bunch of his radishes. 

I also spoke to Justine from O&F Farms out of Blue Bell, PA. She had some beautiful tomatoes which she allowed us to have gratis with the hopes that we would spread the word of their flavor, which I just did. Ha. I also bought some zucchini and sugar snap peas which were too mature to eat whole, but after shelling them and combining them with the aforementioned zucchini - they became a welcome addition to our dinner table (recipe to follow). That nifty photo at the beginning of this post is of some of the spoils purchased from O&F. 

After we were through with the market outside, Emily and I decided to take a sojourn into the Terminal, if not for any other reason than to get out of the humidity and into the cool. As luck would have it, we entered right by the Fair Food Farmstand. For those not familiar with the Farmstand, it is a project of Fair Food, a program sponsored by White Dog Community Enterprises, a Philadelphia non-profit dedicated to supporting local and sustainable agriculture in our region. The Farmstand was hoppin' and from the looks of their produce, I could see why. I picked up a fresh bunch of green chard (we prefer the green) and a huge white onion. Their food was a little more pricey than  am used to from the farmers markets, but it looked too good to pass up and cooking it and eating it only confirmed my suspicion. After we were done at Fair Food, Ethan let us know in his usual high-pitched way that it was time to go.

Later on in the week, I spoke with Bob Pierson, founder and director of Farm to City, the local business who, partnered with the Reading Terminal Market Corporation, is managing the outdoor market. Bob was gracious enough to give me some time over the phone and I asked him if the market and the Farmstand are affiliated in any way. He told me they are not but that Farm to City and Fair Food do collaborate on a number of projects. He then elaborated by saying the outdoor market is "growers only", and the Farmstand doesn't fit that model. While I understand the importance of "growers only" mentality, perhaps the outdoor market would have more traffic if there was more of a connection to what is going on inside the market. As it turns out, this upcoming Sunday, they are moving the market form outdoors into the Piano Court in the Terminal. I think this is a good move. If you go down to the Terminal, and don't know that there is a market outside, you aren't going to go. Likewise, the only reason I went to the Terminal was to get out of the heat; I like it but I have been there hundreds of times, and my intention was only to buy food from the farmers' market. I knew about the Farmstand, but I wasn't really thinking about it at the time and was mildly surprised to find myself there. By moving the market inside, hopefully more traffic will be created for the farmers' market AND the Terminal, although at this point I suspect the Terminal will be doing most of the influence. Hey, a rising tide lifts all boats right? So this is what you do - on a Sunday morning after breakfast, hop on the El and go to the Terminal. Walk around the entire place, have lunch, and then stop by the Piano Court for some local food. You will be supporting local agriculture, a local landmark, and will be indulging in a taste of Philadelphia!
And now the zucchini recipe I promised. I found this recipe at the Real Simple site on the web. I tweaked it a bit to suit our needs and this new version is what I will give to you now. 

  • 1 Medium Zucchini
  • 1 Cup Fresh Peas
  • 2 Tbls. Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Cloves Minced (man, we love garlic here)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Dried Thyme

Chop zucchini into slices or however you like.
In a large skillet over medium heat, combine olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until zucchini is soft, about 5-7 minutes.
Add peas and thyme and cook until peas are tender, about two minutes.
If you try this, leave a comment and let us know. We are novice chefs over here at the feed and are always looking for feedback and suggestions. 


  1. Dear Ben,

    That was a very insightful piece you wrote about the Reading Terminal Market's latest venture, our Sunday Farmers' Market. Our collaboration with Farm to City has been a year in the making, and the new farmers' market was launched just a month ago. You're right that sales have been below expectations thus far, so we decided to move the farmers inside so that they can benefit from the inside traffic (not to mention climate control-boy was it stifling last Sunday!). We are committed to incorporating more of a producer-only component to the Reading Terminal Market's already-robust local food offerings. Hopefully this move will do the trick. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for taking the time to write your analysis!

    -Paul Steinke, RTM GM

  2. Thanks for checking out the Feed, Mr. Steinke!


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