By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Downtown Pottstown looked like one big social hour with the return of the outdoor farmers market last week.
Families, friends and community members greeted familiar faces and shopped at the same time. The Pottstown & Artisan Regional Market, or FARM for short, officially opened for business on June 1, returning for a second season. The pop-up market will be every Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the 200 block of E. High St. until November.
“I’m very excited for the first week,” said Sheila Dugan, executive director of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority and the market manager.
She said the opening day went very well and that there was a nice crowd visiting the vendor tables. Dugan said most of the vendors from last year returned to the market this season and there’s also quite a few new vendors as well. This year’s market will have vendors selling fresh produce, bread, honey, flowers, candles, soap, hot food, wine and much more.
Dugan said a lot of the new vendors this year are artisans selling a variety of pieces. Ali Jacobs of “Worlds of Art by Ali J” sold her hand-lettered and hand-painted designs on opening day. Jacobs said her work is all about positivity and good vibes. She had several designs with a rustic farm theme in honor of the market such as a carved pig with the words “Welcome to the Farm” on it. Jacobs said there was beautiful weather for first market day of the season and that it was great to see people walking around.
“It’s good to see so many people enjoying an event in Pottstown and having pride in the town,” she said.
Meagan Smolsky, of Limerick, has been wanting to visit the market since last year but never got a chance until last week for this season’s opening day. Smolsky said she tries to buy local whenever she can and was able to purchase fresh kale from Tine & Toil Farm.
“I’m definitely interested in a lot of the local products,” she said adding that she would be visiting the outdoor market often throughout the season.
Besides starting about a month later than last year, this season’s market has several other changes in store. There’s a new SNAP incentive this year. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The program offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families. People can use their SNAP card to receive $5 FARM coins which can be used to purchase food items such as fresh vegetables at the weekly market. For using their card at the market, participants will get an additional $5 coin for free.
Another incentive program happening at the market this season is the “Two-Bite Club.” On the last Thursday of every month, children will have the opportunity to try the FARM product of the month in exchange for a $5 coin that can be used at the market. Products will include healthy food choices such as fruits and veggies. The two incentive programs were made possible through a grant from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.
The last Thursday of the month will not only feature the “Two-Bite Club” but also an “Almost Friday” event at the market. At the end of each month, the outdoor market will have activities such as live music, a beer garden and guest chefs preparing FARM to table meals at Smith Family Plaza.
Each “Almost Friday” event will have one big special activity or theme. On June 29, there will be a 5K PDIDA Run during the outdoor market. The race begins 6:30 p.m. from Riverfront Park. After the run, participants are invited to visit the market where there will be a raffle for an iPod Air. The first 100 people that register for the race will receive a raffle ticket, a FARM market bag, a T-shirt and one beer for those 21 and over. Find out more about the race and register at www.pretzelcitysports.com.
For more about this season’s weekly outdoor farmers market as well as its events and programs, visit pottstownfarm.org.