Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Portland Farmers' Market moves indoors at Bay One

Originally published in the Portland Phoenix on December 4, 2013

This winter, the Portland Farmers’ Market will be in a new location in a neighborhood known for its food and beverage businesses. It won’t be the first time the farmers’ market has moved to complement the growth of an area. In 1990, the Wednesday market moved from Federal Street to Monument Square to counteract the loss of the Porteous department store (where the Maine College of Art is now). It makes sense now that the winter farmers’ market is moving to East Bayside, Portland’s most up-and-coming neighborhood. At 200 Anderson Street, the market will be in the newly renovated Bay One food hub, alongside the Urban Farm Fermentory, Bomb Diggity Bakery, Pure Pops, and Maine Pie Line (see “Building a Hub for Food” by Jeff Inglis, January 9).

Market Membership Coordinator and farmer Carolyn Snell hopes that people already headed to Bayside for their Saturday grocery shopping will stop by the farmers’ market too. When asked if she thinks some education will be necessary to help customers find this out of the way spot, Snell is optimistic. “That part of town is such a hotbed right now, I think it will work.” Snell says the new space will offer a layout more similar to the Deering Oaks Saturday market, in a snake-like line rather than the “echo chamber” of the Irish Heritage Center, where vendors couldn’t avoid watching customers buy from their competition. Parking abounds in this largely industrial neighborhood, although it’s true that the new location is not on a bus line.

As mandated by the city, vendors at the farmers’ market must produce 75 percent of their stand’s wares, resulting in a fantastic showcase of our state’s food. This winter, 20 vendors selling vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, dairy, maple syrup, honey, and more will attend the market.

The token program will continue at this year’s winter market to help increase the ways customers can buy local foods. For two years, the Portland Farmers’ Market Association has funded a staff member and a credit card machine to make SNAP (food stamps), credit, and debit card purchases possible.

As a result, Maine has the second-highest percentage of total food-stamp dollars redeemed at farmers’ markets in the country. With multiple ways to pay, hip neighbors, and scads of parking, the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market aims to make it easy to eat local year ’round. Check out the grand opening this Saturday, December 6.

Portland Winter Farmers’ Market | 200 Anderson Street | Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm through April

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