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Fair Food Farmstead – providing accessibility to locally grown food

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Many consumers cite ‘distance’ and ‘inconvenient location’ as reasons to not shop at farmer’s markets. The Farmstand, located in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal, is pioneering an innovative model for a community supported agricultural program.

By Eartheasy Posted Oct 19, 2009

The new Fair Food Farmstand is open for business! Philadelphia residents now have a centrally-located market where they can buy organic and sustainably-raised food products from more than 90 local farms and producers including vegetables, fruits, humanely-raised meats and poultry, eggs, cheese, dairy and value-added farm products seven days a week.

While the mantra ‘eat locally’ resonates with many people interested in food sustainability, finding local food sources can be difficult for those with limited mobility. Many people who live in urban settings without cars are unable to cruise the farmer’s markets on weekends, and the small local farmers and producers would better thrive if they could reach this potential market. In their report, “Location and Other Market Attributes Affecting Farmers’ Market Patronage: The Case of Tennessee,” Eastwood, Brooker and Gray note that studies show that consumers who don’t shop at farmers market cite ‘access issues’ as obstacles such as distance from the consumer’s home and inconvenience of the location.

The Fair Food Farmstand addresses the problem of accessibility head on. The Farmstand is located in the Reading Terminal Market, the nation’s premier public market, with more than five million visits each year. For the Market, which has been open continuously since 1892, the growth of Farmstand signifies a return to the Market’s roots; its presence emphasizes the historical character and function of the Market as an urban farmers’ market.

In keeping with the theme of sustainability, the majority of the building materials used to construct the Farmstand come from recycled materials. Locally sourced and processed wood makes up the majority of the counters and stands, and the cedar wainscoting was made from reclaimed telephone poles. Salvaged chalkboards from Philadelphia public schools are now checkout counters. Daylight is the primary source of light for the Farmstand and artificial lighting is only used when necessary. The Farmstand also uses only non-toxic, all natural, “green cleaning” materials and methods.

Dozens of farmers and local food producers attended the grand opening to demonstrate their commitment to the initiative. They were joined by Market officials, local leaders and two guest speakers: keynote speaker Marion Nestle, a renowned nutrition and policy expert from New York University; and James Barham, from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service in Washington, D.C.

Fair Food is a program developed by the White Dog Cafe Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in Philadelphia in 2002. For over 20 years, the White Dog Café has been a model enterprise, known nationally for its community involvement, environmental stewardship and responsible business practices.

The developers of the Fair Food Farmstand hope their success will provide a template for other cities looking for ways to promote local humane and sustainable agricultural practices and products. To learn more about Fair Food Farmstand, or join the Farmstand Weekly email list, contact emily@fairfoodphilly.org.

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