The Reading Farmers Market has grown from a few boxes of veggies in the American Legion parking lot to a regular Friday happening on Vine Street at Reading Road. (You can read about how the market got started here.)
To learn how the market has grown and what’s new this year, we spoke with Reading WeTHRIVE! team members Donna Wiggins, Annie Hess, and Chris Zander.
A big challenge for small farmers markets is attracting vendors. In its third season, the Reading market has 13 full-time and nine part-time vendors.
“Now we’re in a position where people are reaching out to us, instead of us begging them to come,” said market manager Donna Wiggins. “We’re pretty happy about that.”
Although Reading is a smaller market, customers come with the intent to make a purchase. “We have less people, but vendors are happy with the amount of sales that they get at our market,” Donna added.
Spreading the news
With four children busy with activities, Annie Hess says she isn’t able to help out at the Friday farmers market as often as she would like. So she decided to start a market newsletter.
The weekly newsletter includes information about what vendors and items will be at the market. “I also put in a recipe that is based on whatever Steve (from Just Farmin’) says he’ll be selling that week, and tips on cooking and home gardening,” Annie said.
Donna Wiggins is great about using social media to promote the market. She posts regularly on Facebook (WeTHRIVE! in Reading & Reading Farmers Market), Twitter and Instagram. Donna also does a Facebook Live video from the market every week.
Hunting for veggies
Also new this year is the veggie scavenger hunt for children, an idea Annie got from the Montgomery Farmers Market. As their parents shop, kids keep an eye out for three vegetable characters (pictured below – a crocheted beet, tomato, and lettuce head) that are hidden throughout the market.
When they find all three veggies, kids can get their Reading Farmers Market Kids Club card punched. At the end of the season, each punch is an entry to win a $50 gift card.
Chris Zander and his family started a new Kids Crafts Booth this year, where kids can sell items they make.
“The market provides a table and a canopy and some chairs, so parents don’t have to worry about that,” Chris said. “We have some resources on entrepreneurship for kids, so if they aren’t sure where to start they can get information about pricing their wares and other business tips.”
Kids can sign up for 30-60 minute slots. Some of the items sold so far include decorated flower pots and garden stones, bookmarks, jewelry, keychains, and plants.
Becoming a community event
With no local supermarket, residents are grateful to have a place to buy fresh produce, but the market is more than that.
“Our community likes to have things like this available,” Donna said. “We enjoy festivals and any kind of party. So we’re trying to move toward that kind of atmosphere.”
A dance team performed at the season’s opening market day and there has been some live music as well.
“With it being on a Friday night I can see big things coming,” Annie said. “With things like music and food trucks, that’s the way we’re going to get it to grow and make it into more of an event.”
As more people get vaccinated and feel more comfortable going places, Donna, Annie and Chris hope the Reading Farmers Market will become a regular part of the week for more and more people.
The farmers market is just one of the Reading WeTHRIVE! team’s endeavors. There’s Adopt-A-Pot, Park Passport Program, Safe Routes to School, and more! Visit the team’s WeTHRIVE! web page here or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.