Saturday June 25, 2011
BRATTLEBORO — Three years ago Post Oil Solutions started a farmers’ market at the Westgate Housing Community as a way to bring locally grown produce to low-income families.
Bringing together Post Oil’s organization and an agreement by farmers to sell their fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices, the 2009 market successfully provided fresh produce to more than 40 people during the summer.
The market moved into a second site last year, and this year Post Oil Solutions is holding its Neighborhood Market at three locations and has expanded to include both low-income customers along with those who pay full price.
“Too often the local food movement becomes an elite thing that is only for people who can afford it,” said Angela Berkfield, the community food security organizer at Post Oil Solutions. “But really good, local food should be for everyone and everyone should have access to it.”
This year the Neighborhood Market is being held at Westgate, on the lawn of the Samuel Elliot Apartments on Elliot Street and at the Townshend Farmers Market.
Along with accepting food stamps, the market this year is also selling full price memberships as a way to both subsidize the market and as a way to bring members of the community together who otherwise might not be shopping together at a farmers’ market.
“We wanted to do this to bring people together to make a statement,” said Berkfield. “Our goal is to build a community
across class and race divisions and the market is one way to do that.”
Mel Motel lives in Brattleboro, and she even works at a local farm. Still she was at the market at the Elliot apartment Tuesday to sign up for a season at full price.
“I appreciate the goal they have of making food accessible to all people,” Motel said as she signed a check and made her way around the tables of fresh produce. “It’s a great way to hang out in the neighborhood and by signing up I can support the long- and short-term goals.”
The Neighborhood Market is set up so customers who have paid can go from farmer to farmer and choose either three, five or nine pieces or bunches of produce.
The model is like a community supported agriculture, or CSA, share, except there is no risk to the customer.
With a CSA the customer pays for a season’s worth of produce, and has to accept what the farmer grows.
At the Post Oil Neighborhood Market the customer is guaranteed to receive the shares of produce.
A band played music at the market Tuesday and someone was there to explain what to do with some of the produce.
Meredith Wade, who is one of the education and outreach coordinators with the Brattleboro Food Co-op, is also working with members of the Brattleboro Boys and Girls Club to teach youth recipes and try new foods.
Elizabeth Wood, who runs New Leaf CSA in Dummerston, agreed to take part in the Neighborhood Market this year and was at the Sam Elliot Apartments Tuesday.
For Wood the market is a way to get off the farm and have her name out and introduced to potential customers.
But she also said she supported the work Post Oil was doing and saw it as a way to reach a customer base who otherwise might not be able to afford a full CSA membership.
“It is great to have farmers and food like this downtown, and to make it easier for everyone to get local produce,” she said. “It’s important that everyone have access to good, healthy food.”
The market runs for 15 weeks, from the last week in June through the end of September.
There is still space available for this year’s market.
For more information on the Neighborhood Market, e-mail Berkfield at email@example.com or call 802-348-9818.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.