Lititz Farmers Market takes the guesswork out of local
Rhubarb, I’ve missed you.
Buying locally has finally become en vogue. People realize they can think outside the box, literally, and buy outside the big box store when it comes to groceries.
Seasonal availability of local food was once the norm. For decades it seems we’ve disconnected from that experience because of the year-round availability of produce at chain stores.
Traffic at the opening day of the Lititz Farmers Market last Saturday was evidence of an escalating movement, and area farm stands have been upgrading their facilities due to the popularity of buying fresh and local.
“We’re certified organic which is a big plus. We will not offer anything that we don’t grow,” said Jim Krock, a vendor from Spring Leaf Farm in Denver.
While some markets and stands try to “sneak” in produce and goods that are not local, many patrons hold them accountable with questions of where the items actually come from and if the food is grown by the farmers who sell it.
The Lititz Farmers Market is not exclusively local, but it’s not because they are less focused on it.
“We decided to open it up last year. A lot of the families that come are looking for a one-stop-shop so they don’t have to go to the grocery store afterwards. There are things like limes, lemons, bananas, pineapple,” said Stephanie Samuel, the market manager. Samuel is also the vendor of Sugar Whipped Bakery which offers cupcakes, whoopie pies, cake pops and gourmet marshmallows.
“We opened it up to some things that can’t be grown in this area so we could be more convenient for the consumer,” she explained.
Still, some farmers market purists sniff out what’s not local and interrogate. That guesswork has been eliminated in Lititz.
“They must mark what’s not local,” said Jay Nonnenmocher, market board member.
One farmers market deterrent has been the perceived expense. That seems to be changing as well.
“Our organic prices are right in line with the grocery store,” said Krock. “That was one of our goals.”
While not everything in the market is organic, it is a valid question to ask the vendor. In general, seasonal produce is less expensive than in major grocery stores.
The Lititz Farmers Market is not only about produce from local farmers and supporting them, it’s also a great community meeting place to experience open-air music, eating and sampling an eclectic array of things such as artisan bread, jams, granola, honey and cheeses and, of course, baked goods. Flowers and potted plants wooed on the first day due to Mother’s Day weekend.
“This is the first time we’ve been here,” said Ruth Rinder, along with her husband Ernie. “I thought it was only produce and had no idea what it was like. It’s wonderful. We only live down the street at Luther Acres.”
Saturday’s theme was Garden Day. Vendors included the Lancaster Conservancy with information on rain barrels, Your Garden Solution with square foot gardening displays, Penn Valley Farms with compost demonstrations, and Lititz Cub Scout Pack 100 offering seed plantings in a cup that patrons could take home.
With all this talk of local, it’s important to note that some of the patrons are not.
“We come here about twice a year in the fall and spring and stay overnight at the General Sutter Inn,” said Sarah Yoder of York. “It’s an excursion, and we feel like we’re getting away but don’t have to travel too far.”
During their weekend break from the kids (they hired a babysitter), the Yoders wined and dined in the borough, enjoying visits to Tomato Pie Café, Wilbur and Café Chocolate.
“We love the shopping, stores and artists,” said her husband, Emmerich. “We walk around and have a good time.”
And of course, the market was part of the experience.
For those who return this Saturday, there will be a a variety of starter plants, both flower and edible. Last winter’s colder temperatures have the growing season off to a later start for some farmers. There may be a delay in appearance for some produce, but the selection will increase as the season progresses.
If you are curious about which vendors and items will be at market each week, sign up for the weekly newsletter by going to lititzfarmersmarket.com and go under the “stay informed” tab.
The farmers market is open on North Water Street from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday until mid-October, but here are some special dates to mark in your calendar:
June 14 – Ice cream Day
July 12 – Dog Day
Aug. 16 – Produce Day
Sept. 13 – Agriculture Day
Oct. 4 – Kids Day
Some tips to keep in mind are to bring small bills, your own shopping bag and talk to merchants about what will be coming up the next week. Plan a meal around your findings. And yes, there is a roomy port-a-potty with an outside sink hidden in the trees at the end of the walk.
Michele Walter Fry is a freelance feature reporter and photographer for the Record Express. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.