Farmers’ Market returns with oldies and goodies

Farmers Market

The Farmers’ Market at University Square's operating hours have been extended this year to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., every Wednesday until late November.

The familiar white tent of the Farmers’ Market at University Square—offering fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy items, and baked goods—has returned to 36th and Walnut streets outside of the Penn Bookstore.

The market opened on Wednesday, May 2, a few weeks ahead of schedule, due to the unusually mild winter.

“The farmers were really chomping at the bit to get back,” says Matt Weiss, program manager at Farm to City, which runs the market at Penn as well as 15 others in the Philadelphia region. “Because it’s been so warm, the crops were coming in earlier than ever.”

Each year, Farm to City evaluates how the Farmers’ Market at University Square fares, and then chooses a complementary mix of vendors to sell goods on campus.

This year, several longtime popular vendors have returned, along with a few new merchants.

Lancaster County’s Hilltop Gardens, a market regular, is back selling locally grown spinach, asparagus, eggs, and an assortment of baked goods, including red velvet cake, sticky buns, and whoopie pies. Beechwood Orchards, another market staple, offers berries, apricots, and other seasonal fruit. Also returning is John and Kira’s Chocolate.

New vendors at the market are the Big Sky Bread Company of Wilmington, Del., an artisan bread baker, and the City Harvest Growers Alliance, which offers West Philadelphia-grown vegetables. Part of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Growers Alliance uses its proceeds to support urban farm programs and nutrition education programs for children.

“[The City Harvest Growers Alliance is] a super-local farmer, who’s coming from basically the neighborhood, growing produce on one or two vacant lots,” Weiss says.

The Farmers’ Market's operating hours have been extended this year to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., every Wednesday until late November. Vendors accept cash and students’ Dining Dollar$.

Marie Witt, vice president of the Business Services Division, which oversees University Square, says the market has become “an institution on Penn’s campus.”

“It provides a convenient, mid-week shopping destination and a great opportunity to support local farmers,” she says.

Originally published on May 10, 2012