By Hannah Payne
The Regional Environmental Council is an environmental justice organization working in Worcester since 1971. This year we are excited to launch a second farmer’s market location as part of our Food Justice Program. The first market has been running since 2008 and is located in the parking lot of the YMCA (766 Main St.) and runs from 10 am – 2 pm every Saturday. The new market is located in Great Brook Valley at the Great Brook Valley Health Center (19 Tacoma St.) and runs from 9 am – 1 pm on Saturdays. This is the first year for the Great Brook Valley market, which had its grand opening June 19. The REC hopes to spread the success of the Main South market to Great Brook Valley. Through the farmer’s markets the REC aims to provide fresh and local produce and food at affordable prices to the Main South and Great Brook Valley communities. With this mission in mind the farmer’s markets accept WIC and senior coupons as well as SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
One of the best things about the REC’s farmer’s markets is that you don’t need cash to shop at the market, credit, debit and EBT cards are all accepted in addition to cash and WIC and senior coupons. One of the most exciting elements is that if you make purchases with your SNAP (food stamp) card all purchases are half price! Local, organic produce is typically expensive in grocery stores but at these farmer’s markets it is accessible to all, thanks to the already reasonable prices and the SNAP deal.
Vendors come each week with their fresh produce, honey, sandwiches and homemade cookies, breads and treats. YouthGROW, the REC’s youth urban agriculture program, has a booth selling organic produce that is raised and harvested by Worcester youth at two farms that are located in the Main South and Bell Hill areas. The new pizzeria, Flats, sells its delicious sandwiches and dips, other vendors sell homemade Austrian-style cookies and organic goat milk soaps, and various local farms bring in fresh kale, collard greens, lettuce, squash, tomatoes and zucchinis to name a just a few of the things offered at the markets.
But the farmer’s markets are not just about buying high quality food, they are also community events. Each market has a Kids Zone, where kids can play games, get their face painted or pick up a balloon animal. Local performers take the stage to entertain shoppers, vendors and passersby. And starting soon, the Worcester Art Museum will start a mural painting project that will involve all who wish to create a little bit of art at both locations. Bringing music, art and good food together creates a fun and safe space to spend a Saturday and meet other people from the community.
The generous support of our sponsors at the Health Foundation of Central MA and the Worcester Advisory Food Policy Council have made these markets possible but we need the community to come out and shop and make the markets a continueing success! Please join us this and every Saturday until October!