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Farmer’s markets provide wholesome goodness
For Jennifer McTiernan, good food equals a great life. She believes so strongly in this equation that she left her day job over a year ago to become the Executive Director of CitySeed, a non-profit organization out of New Haven which operates four farmer’s markets throughout the city.
“A few neighbors got together [and realized] there was no place to buy fruits and vegetables,” she said. McTiernan, who had spent time in Berkeley, California before returning to New Haven, said it was the organic produce she missed the most after leaving the west coast. Upon returning to Connecticut, McTiernan was struck by a question which in turn triggered her idea to create the markets.
“Where can I get an amazing tomato?” she said. “It’s about introducing this celebratory relationship with food.” After sharing her idea with three other people, McTiernan’s dream of creating a place for the local community to find an amazing tomato soon became a reality. She developed CitySeed, which in cooperation with other non-profit organizations runs the four markets. The original market is located in Wooster Square at Russo Park and opened in the spring of last year.
“[There were] seven farmers opening day of last year, by noon everyone was sold out,” recalls McTiernan. Currently there are twenty-four vendors that sell food at the markets and each market is just a little different. “Everywhere we went, people wanted us,” said McTiernan. “You buy the food from the farmer.” After the successful first season of the Wooster Square market, CitySeed opened three other markets in different neighborhoods as well. The other locations include Fair Haven, at the Quinnipiac River Park, Edgewood Park and the Temple Street Plaza, which opened this past July. Every market has food which is either organic or sustainable, which satisfies CitySeed’s stated vision of “to create a sustainable model of local economy, urban community, regional agriculture, environmental stewardship, and well-being through food.”
The farms which sell at the market’s come from surrounding areas such as Hamden, Northford, Shelton, Oxford and Madison. Each farm has its own table in the market, which offers a wide variety of food items such as asparagus, free-range eggs, maple syrup, cheese, lobsters and shell fish. The Fair Haven market also has a vendor which sells jewelry native of Ecuador.
McTiernan sees her efforts as very successful and believes the response from the community has been very positive.
“We definitely get a lot of foot traffic and that’s why you want to have neighborhood farmer’s markets. The hardest thing was getting farmers,” she said. “The city has generally been really supportive. The fact that we have four different markets in four communities is great.” Despite achieving her goal of creating the markets, McTiernan is now setting her sights on something greater.
“The big dream is to create a public market, year round, somewhere in downtown or near downtown,” she said. Currently, all of the markets are scheduled to close in October with the Wooster Square market reopening in the spring and the remaining markets to reopen in July.
Jeff Pascale, who works at Northfordy Farm, in Northford believes that the markets have been beneficial to the community.
“I’ve been working on the farm for a little over a year. I work on the farm and at the markets,” he said. “[The most important part of the markets is] to bring these people fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of these people don’t have access [to fresh produce]. It’s local. They are supporting local farms, not commercial farms.” Pascale adds that Normandy Farms does not use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, which is another added bonus to shopping at the markets.
“It’s all reasonable [prices] for organic and you aren’t buying all the packaging,” Pascale said. Northfordy Farm sells produce such as squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, onions and peppers.
“They don’t have a lot of room in their own yards to grow fresh gardens,” said Stacia Monahan, who owns Stone Gardens of Shelton. “A lot of people can’t get down to Shelton where we have more farms. You have definite regulars.”
According to McTiernan, the success of the markets relies heavily on volunteers.
McTiernan also stated that the organization is actively seeking interns. Anyone with knowledge of marketing, public relations or business may be qualified. Anyone interested in learning more about CitySeed or its projects can check out www.cityseed.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.