Bringing Local Food to the Commonwealth

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Photo By John Tlumaki

It’s been two years since Boston Public Market opened it’s doors, and it’s already become a staple for locally sourced products in downtown Boston. Vendors from across the commonwealth come to sell everything from fresh produce to artisan crafts. And while only a third of the permanent vendors are dedicated to food and groceries, it’s the best place to go to get a taste of everything Massachusetts has to offer.

The market has been an excellent tool for local farmers. As a permanent farmer’s market, it allows consumers to learn about the variety of food grown in the greater Boston area, and put a face to items that would normally be bought at a supermarket. Farmers like Al Rose, owner of Red Apple Farm, are enjoying the new access to urban consumers in an urban environment that was previously inaccessible to small scale family operations.

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Photo By Olga Khvan

Public market’s aren’t a new idea, and they can be found in most major cities across the United States. They’ve become increasingly popular due to the increase in demand for “local” food. As opposed to farmer’s market’s that happen at a specific time and date, the Boston public market is open 7 days a week, encouraging curious consumers and passerby to shop on their own time, which is important in making local agriculture more accessible.

And in Massachusetts, a state not known for it’s agriculture, accessibility is key. With the increase in popularity in “local” produce, it’s encouraging people to reconsider farming as a viable business in the northeast. This is important for new england, as it’s a region that’s becoming increasingly dependent on outside food.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Bringing Local Food to the Commonwealth

  1. amyquandt

    Who runs the market? Is it run by the city or by a non-profit? Why do you think that something like this does not exist in Boulder where it would probably be very popular?

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    • pjconti

      The market is run by the not-for-profit Boston Public Market Association, although they are partnered with the State of Massachusetts and the city of Boston. So both, in a way. In Boulder, a lot of the farms don’t have permanent farm stands. Unlike Massachusetts, where a lot of the farms that ended up in the Boston Public Market were already running 5 or 6 day a week stands at their respective farms, away from the city. So the funds were already set aside for full time sales staff, it was just a matter of funding for rent in the market.So farms around Boulder would have to change how they operate, and move from a business model where they sell to markets which sell to consumers, to a business model where they themselves are selling direct to consumers. Another factor can be the types of produce. The northeast’s agriculture mostly revolves around fruit orchards, Colorado has more of a focus on cash crops, where it’s more beneficial to grow them en masse and sell to supermarkets.

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  2. Is the reason that farmers typically only sell to the public on the weekends because they make greater profit selling most of their produce to companies? If so, how is it that this 7-day-a-week market can exist?

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    • pjconti

      Hey Alec, nice question! Unless you’re in the Deerfield Valley of Mass, most farms are smaller scale operations that make their profit from farm stands. A lot of the farms that ended up in the Boston Public Market were already running 5 or 6 day a week stands at their respective farms, away from the city. So the funds were already set aside for full time sales staff, it was just a matter of funding for rent in the market.

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  3. lizbrucker

    You state that Massachusetts is not known for it’s agriculture. This leads me to my question: Where is this produce coming from/how far do vendors have to travel in order to sell their produce at the public market in Boston? In your opinion, would it be a better idea/more efficient to simply construct an urban farm or greenhouse in which people/farmers can rent out portions to grow food, thus providing easy access to fresh produce to city residents?

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    • pjconti

      While Mass isn’t known for it’s agriculture, it’s not nonexistent. Farms at the market usually come from within 100 miles, but there are exceptions. While a greenhouse would probably be an excellent idea for those who want to participate, the main issue is the time commitment. It’s a lot easier to get somebody to change from a supermarket to a local market, than it is to get a person to start growing their own food. Rather, a greenhouse seems like the next logical progression. Once people start placing a value on fresher produce, it’ll be easier to make that next step to wanting to grow their own food.

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