The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Pottstown outdoor farmers market opens with Cinco De Mayo celebration

Outdoor farm market to open with Cinco De Mayo celebration

By Michilea Patterson, mpatterson@21st-centurymedia.com, @MichileaP on Twitter

Monday, May 2, 2016

POTTSTOWN >> The outdoor farmers market will open its season with a fiesta for Cinco De Mayo on Thursday.

Cinco De Mayo means the 5th of May in Spanish and it’s a celebration of Mexican culture. The Pottstown Farm & Artisan Regional Market, or FARM for short, invites the community to celebrate the holiday with farm fresh foods and fun Latin-inspired activities.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring healthy eating into the town,” said Sheila Dugan, Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority executive director and Pottstown FARM market manager.

Dugan said the FARM committee decided to have the outdoor market Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The market will be along the 200 block of High Street once a week until October. Since Cinco De Mayo landed on a Thursday this year, the committee also decided to make the opening a Mexican festivity.

Audra Ross, of the Pottstown FARM Committee, said there will be several events at the market to make the opening a fiesta. The owner of Juan Carlos Mexican Cuisine will do a salsa demonstration with fresh ingredients at 4 p.m. A chili cook-off tasting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Centro Cultural Latinos Unidos will do a Latin dance presentation and lesson. Grumpy’s Handcarved Sandwiches will feature a South of the Border soup. A DJ will provide music including Latin songs.

“It’s a full Cinco De Mayo theme,” Ross said.

In addition to the celebration, attendees of the market’s opening day will also be able to purchase food and other goodies. As of last week, there were 17 confirmed vendors. Items that will be available include early spring vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, honey, flowers, candles and more. Cheeses will be available starting next week.

Dugan said the idea of bringing an outdoor farmers market to the borough has been talked about for years. She said Pottstown farmer Brian Steer really pushed for the market and believed they could open it this May. Steer is the owner of Steer’s Vegetables and Herbs and was the first vendor signed up. Dugan said PDIDA became the “umbrella” for the market and then a committee was created to get everything organized. Funding of the market was made possible with a $10,000 grant from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation along with other sponsorships.

Dugan said the market is also going to be an educational resource for residents. She said the market will be more than just a place where people buy food. Opening day will have a wellness tent filled with healthy living information. Throughout the season; the market will include blood pressure screenings, short massages and speakers covering different topics.

Mosaic Community Land Trust will be at the market to teach children the importance of healthy eating and lead them in several activities. Ross said the market will use a Power of Produce toolkit as another healthy eating program for children. A two-bite club will encourage kids to try new foods for an incentive.

“Ultimately we want it to involve educational activities so the kids can have a program around learning something about healthy foods,” Ross said.

Fitness will also be a feature at the outdoor market. Dugan said the market is partnering with a new bike ambassador program that recently started in Pottstown. The market will be one of the stops on their bicycling route. For opening day, the first 20 bicyclists to visit the market will receive a free Pottstown FARM bag. Dugan said the partnership was created to help make the public aware of the program.

Dugan said the many features of the market and having it in the evening is meant to encourage residents to start enjoying downtown at night. She said the market won’t just be a place to pick up groceries then leave but the idea is to get people to stay awhile. Along with the featured speakers and programs, there will be food trucks once a month.

“Those (events) are all a real integral part of it,” Dugan said.

She said the hope is that the market will help both business and residents want to participate in evening activities downtown. Dugan said it would be nice if some of the downtown businesses could eventually start to stay open a little later. Ross said both the community and the businesses owners are needed to make that a reality.

“It’s kind of a cycle where people say I don’t go downtown because everything closes so early and the businesses say well I don’t stay open because nobody goes downtown,” Ross said. For more information about Pottstown FARM including a full list of vendors, visit the website www.pottstownfarm.org.

The Mercury is engaged in a long-term effort, Fit for Life, designed to promote healthy living. In addition to articles in the newspaper and on our website, Fit for Life features a blog with recipes, health tips such as getting fit without breaking the bank and other tools all available free online. Visit the website at pottsmercfit4life.wordpress.com, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MercFit4Life and follow our efforts on Twitter @MercFit4Life.

Michilea Patterson is the Fit for Life reporter and is funded in part by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.