Every Thursday from now until mid-September, the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market will offer fresh produce, prepared meals, and baked goods to Bethlehem residents.
The Bethlehem Farmers’ Market was originally an initiative of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADC-B) six years ago to provide locally grown produce and fruits to low-income residents of Bethlehem.
The market moved to several locations in South Bethlehem and last year Lehigh University offered the Campus Square area as a new location for the market with the hope of establishing a more accessible location for residents and local patrons and the market enjoyed its finest season ever in 2006.
As a result, the CADC-B approached Lehigh to manage the oversight of the market this summer. Lehigh accepted the challenge and will manage the Farmer’s Market this year. The market is at Campus Square and South New Street in South Bethlehem. The half-block between Fourth Street and Morton Street is blocked to traffic, making a pedestrian-safe environment for the patrons.
Even with management changing hands from the CADC-B to Lehigh, the mission of the market—a centrally located, community market offering the best locally grown and produced goods—will stay the same.
Dale Kochard, executive director of community and regional affairs at Lehigh, has been a key administrator for Lehigh partnering with the community for events. Earlier this year, Lehigh established the organic South Bethlehem Community Garden in partnership with the City of Bethlehem, Rodale, Inc., and local residents.
Kochard sees the conversion to Lehigh managing the market as a positive one. “Here is a chance for Lehigh and the South Side community to partner once again. With the Farmers’ Market, we want to bring in the full flavor of the region, so along with the farmers, we’re encouraging prepared food vendors and local artisans to participate.”
Linda Shannon, co-owner of Simply Special, LLC in Fountain Hill, is one of those prepared food vendors. She and her business partner, Jody Smith, participated in Bethlehem’s previous markets and plan on returning this year. She considers the market mutually beneficial to the community and the vendors. “Last year we got a lot of great feedback,” says Shannon. “We received some catering business and sold a gift basket from contacts we made at the market.”
Additionally, Shannon supports the local farmers in offering healthy food options made easily accessible to Bethlehem residents and workers. “We fully support the idea of buying locally produced, additive-free goods.” She continues, “This is one step towards re-educating people on healthy eating habits and sustainable agriculture.”
The market, which will run until mid-September, provides a unique shopping opportunity, especially compared to what customers typically find at a grocery store. At the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market, customers can sample the goods, develop relationships with the vendors, learn about unique food varieties and cooking tips, and greet their neighbors.