The South Bronx Farmers Market is back for round two after a successful first season bringing fresh food to Mott Haven.
The market, recently incorporated as a non-profit, was founded in 2014 when a group of local residents came together to found the volunteer-run project. They opened for the 2015 season on Saturday, June 20.
The weekly market grew from a desire to bring greater access to fresh and locally-sourced food to the Bronx, said director Lily Kesselman.
Compared to other neighborhoods in the city, Mott Haven didn’t have the same types of food shopping experiences and opportunity, said board member Rosanne Placencia-Knepper.
“It was important for me that people where I live have access to this kind of opportunity without getting on a train,” said Placencia-Knepper.
The market also wanted to provide support for local and sustainable farms, which are all within about 100 miles from the city. Two of those farms, the Urban Rebuilding Initiative and La Finca Del Sur, are in the Bronx.
Fresh produce offered include items such as tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, okra and herbs, among other things. Local vendors such as the Port Morris Distillery and Zaro’s Bakery also sell goods.
Each week the farmers market also hosts a cooking demonstration by representatives from the Department of Health, the organization Just Foods or from community chefs.
The demonstrations teach shoppers tasty ways to use their healthy produce.
“They’re showing that anybody can be a cook,” said Kesselman.
The market hopes to inspire kids to get interested in cooking and eating healthy, she said, and the market recently received a grant to distribute coupons to local school kids each month, in the hopes their families will become regulars at the markets.
They are also part of the ‘Health Bucks’ program which provides $2 coupon for every $5 spent with SNAP and other benefits, increasing purchasing power by 40 percent.
“A big part of our mission is increasing options for healthy eating for people on benefits,” said Kesselman.
The organizers have a vision to expand to satellite locations, possibly including farm stands in nearby housing projects, to bring fresh food directly to residents there.
Their ambitious goals come on the heels of what Kesselman said was a successful first season in 2014, thanks to volunteers, partners such as the St. Jerome Church and all the attendees who welcomed the market with open arms.
“We feel very supported in the community,” she said.
For the organizers, the community aspect was an important element of the project, and they took pains to find out what local residents wanted from a farmers market.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to create a space for people to come together, for neighbors to get to know each other,” said Rosanne
And come they did, flocking to the market as the tables were still setting up.
“It quickly became a hub,” said Kesselman.
The South Bronx Farmers Market is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through November 21 on 138th Street between Willis and Alexander avenues.