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Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2019:07:06 12:31:21

Christopher Dolan / Times-Tribune File Photo Tomatoes were displayed on a table at the South Side Farmers Market in Scranton in July.

Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2019:07:06 12:27:31

Christopher Dolan / Times-Tribune File Photo Mike Krug of Waverly packed up a customer’s order at the Overlook Farm stand at the South Side Farmers Market in Scranton in July 6.

The United Neighborhood Centers of Northeast Pennsylvania’s (UNC) South Side Farmers Market is not only a great place to earn a profit for vendors from northeast Pennsylvania, it is a venue that gives its merchants the opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded people with a passion for selling their wares to area residents.

In its sixth year operating as Scranton’s only year-round farmer’s market, the market is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 509 Cedar Ave., the indoor winter location.

“In 2010, UNC created the market to address the lack of affordable, healthy food options in South Scranton, a neighborhood that is classified as a ‘food desert’ by the United States Department of Agriculture,” stated Kimberly Barako, program coordinator, “What began as a small, seasonal venture in a local park with two vendors has grown to a year-round, weekly indoor/outdoor market that includes 12 indoor vendors and up to 16 outdoor vendors and is attended by an average of 225 people each week.”

Despite this growth, UNC believes there is still significant potential for the market to continue increasing in numbers of both vendors and customers.

Barako also notes the market is a forum for local farmers and small business owners to introduce the community to locally sourced products and services on a face-to-face level as opposed to the impersonal nature of supermarkets and large conglomerates.

“This is keeping in the spirit of UNCs mission to create both opportunities for business owners and empower those they serve to create relationships to strengthen the community,” she explained.

The South Side Farmers Market offers organic produce including a variety of greens, pasture-raised eggs and a variety of meats at the market all winter long. Bread and baked goods, raw honey, canned sauces and salsa and other natural and organic food products are available at the market as well. Oftentimes, the market also features guest vendors which include natural soap and body products, plants and more.

Some featured vendors are Fullers Overlook Farm, No Bull Ranch, Quails-R-Us, Beta Bread Bakery, Canned Classics, Ten Mile Mushroom, Barnyard Cidery, El Buen Amigo, Leave Me A Scone, George’s Farm, Osbourne Specialties, Newton Orchard and more.

Dorothy Vidota of Leave me a Scone cannot wait for the weekend and the sheer enjoyment of being part of a community that portrays such loyalty to one another as well as with their customers.

“It is very important to me to be there each week,” she said. “We are part of a niche market who offers their products to customers who truly appreciate them.”

Becoming a vendor a little over a year ago, she offers a variety of delightful varieties of scones as well as other delicacies throughout the year. This season customers have had the opportunity to purchase homemade apple cider donuts, caramel sauce, caramel apples and seasonal scones as well, as a result of the business owner’s dedication to her business.

The impact the year-round market creates is two-fold.

“The farmers get to maintain a revenue stream in what is normally their traditional offseason, and the community has access to fresh produce, organic meats and local products that change with the seasons,” Barako said. “Many of our clients live in South Side and have no transportation to other areas of the city, so, the market provides them with a year-round source of food and other products within walking distance that they might not otherwise be able to easily access.”

She also points out that the foot traffic from the market helps showcase the Elm Street Revitalization Project and introduces customers to the other businesses on Cedar Avenue, which were recently renovated using the UNC’s facade grants.

“This hopefully helps other businesses gain new clientele and move toward/maintain success going forward,” said the program coordinator.

Something that is even more unique to the South Side Farmers Market that is not available at the co-op is the acceptance of EBT/food stamps and participation in the double up food bucks program that matches the value of whatever customers spend on fruits and produce up to $20.

“This gives our low-income customers the ability to get $40 worth of fresh, organic produce for half price, helping them eat healthy while stretching their food budget and conserving their EBT balance,” adds Barako.

“We love being able to sell our products directly to the customer and know the people we are growing food for, which South Side enables us to do. Since we started the farm, it was important for us to keep the food in the community and it has been important for us to sell in South Side as there aren’t options for fresh, healthy foods, as it is considered a ‘food desert’ giving the local community access to healthy, seasonal food which is no more than 15 miles from their house,” said Liz Krug farm manager at Fullers Overlook Farm.

The farm is a regenerative farm which produces five acres of annual vegetables, cut flowers and pasture-raised, organically fed hens for eggs, chicken and pork. They use extensive cover cropping and work on regenerating and rebuilding the soil without the use of any synthetic chemicals or fertilizers.

The market’s location is also equipped with a full indoor kitchen to offer cooking expos given by vendors or other outside organizations to help people utilize the local ingredients they purchase at the market.

South Side Farmers Market is hosted by United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA with funding from Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and a Neighborhood Partnership Program grant from Peoples Security Bank, PNC Bank and PPL Electric Utilities.

United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania (UNC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to assessing and meeting the needs of low-income families, youth and senior citizens in Northeast Pennsylvania. The agency’s mission is to work together with neighbors to provide services and create opportunities that empower individuals and build strong, interdependent communities.