Castle Hill farmer’s market opens next to Y

Michael and Jeanette Gilbert purchase fresh produce at the famers market at Castle Hill Avenue and Hart Street on Saturday, July 18. Photo by Kevin Heckman

Castle Hill Avenue boasts a farmer’s market for the first time in recent memory. The modest-priced produce and baked goods market set up shop on Saturday, July 11 at Castle Hill Avenue and Hart Street – next door to the YMCA.

Three upstate farmers and a baker showed up, as did some 200 neighborhood residents. The market will stay open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all summer long and will celebrate a ribbon cutting soon.

It’s the brainchild of YMCA membership director Ortelio Bello and Community Board 9. Bello worked with CB9 to contact farmer’s market coordinators. A handful didn’t respond but Maritza Owens of Harvest Home did. Based in East Harlem, Harvest Home operates nine farmer’s markets in the Bronx, from Morris Park to Echo Park, Jacobi to North Central.

“I saw a need in the community,” Bello said. “There were no farmer’s markets in this part of the Bronx. I though it would benefit the community to have access to fresh, wholesome foods.”

Before engaging Owens, Bello surveyed YMCA members and neighborhood residents. Those surveyed were pumped about the possibility of a farmer’s market. Fresh fruits and vegetables were high on their lists. There are a bunch of new homes at the end of Castle Hill Avenue yet few supermarkets.

Bello expects YMCA members to visit the farmer’s market. Many stop by on Saturdays to swim and use the gym. A market fits what the YMCA preaches: fitness, health and positive change in the community, he said.

CB9 district manager Francisco Gonzalez agreed. He’s confident that the farmer’s market will be a positive addition to the community.

“We don’t want to undermine existing businesses but giving people access to fresh vegetables and fruits helps raise the quality of life,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t think the farmer’s market will hurt existing businesses. It’s far enough away.”

Gonzalez applauded the decision to locate the farmer’s market next door to the YMCA. Neighborhood residents will walk to the market. The Castle Hill Houses aren’t far away. YMCA members will stick around to shop.

The Castle Hill farmer’s market accepts WIC and EDT, Owens said. Most of her markets are in high-density areas; this one is far from the train and will attract more motorists. All fruits and vegetables at the market are picked the day before. Fresh food tastes better, Owens said.

A second farmer’s market opened on Stickball Avenue between Seward and Lafayette avenues on the afternoon of Thursday, July 16.

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