By Christine Bryant
Get ready for some fresh produce. The Westgate Farmers Market once again will open for business this summer.
The market, which begins June 3 and runs the first and third Saturdays of the month through October, is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the lawn of the West Gate Masonic Lodge, 2925 W. Broad St.
Each event averages around 20 vendors that sell fresh local produce, meat and eggs, honey, fresh flower bouquets, pasta sauce, small batch roasted coffee, flavored simple syrups, jams and jellies, homemade candles and crafts, and baked goods, including gluten-free options.
“All of our vendors are local, and we are a producer-only market, so we only allow vendors who make and grow what they sell,” said Juliette Lonsert, who organizes the market along with Ruth Thurgood-Mundy. “We would still love to find a fresh baked bread vendor and a dairy and cheese vendor, and we are always looking for more produce vendors.”
Vendors are required to have insurance and can apply online. The deadline is before the first market June 3.
This year’s market also will offer more activities, from free yoga classes to cooking demos and live music.
“We will have at least one or two food trucks at each day again this year so that market shoppers can enjoy breakfast or lunch at the market,” Lonsert said.
Now in its second year, organizers are using the experience they gained last year to plan this year’s market.
“The hardest part truly was getting started and recruiting vendors, and so we are happy to say planning has been much easier for the second year,” Lonsert said. “One of our big goals this year is to work even harder to get the word out about the veggieSNAPS/Produce Perks matching program and expand our reach.”
As part of the program, SNAP users can double their SNAP dollars up to $10 per market day to spend on local produce. Market vendors also accept cash, credit cards and SNAP/EBT cards, and select vendors accept WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons.
Also new this year, the farmers market now has a website that Thurgood-Mundy designed where vendors can pay their market fees online – eliminating excess work of collecting booth fees at the market.
“Last year was a giant learning curve, and from those lessons we’re streamlining a lot of things through our online presence, from handling vendor applications and fees to taking sponsorships and donations,” Thurgood-Mundy said. “Generally, we’re just trying to make a smoother process for everyone involved.”
Organizers have also developed additional partnerships in the community, enabling the word to spread about what the market offers.
“We’re really looking to partner with our community groups here on the westside because we know what valuable resources they are in helping us get information out,” Thurgood-Mundy said.
The market began as a way to fill a void organizers saw on the westside, and Betty Jaynes, president of the Westgate Neighbors Association, says supporters knew a vibrant farmers market could demonstrate and withstand demand.
“Many of the vendors sold out quickly at the early markets and came better stocked after they realized this area would support small and buy local,” Jaynes said.
Many of the vendors also set up shop in the Holiday Pop Up store last year, she said.
“The market became so much more than rows of vendors,” Jaynes said. “It became a community event where neighbors could enjoy breakfast or lunch with each other from one of the food trucks, children could run and play on the lawn, and even furry family members could get out and enjoy the day.”
Thurgood-Mundy says as the market continues to grow, the community has continued its support.
“We got a lot of valuable feedback from the community and our vendors last year, so our goal is keep growing the market while maintaining our community focus,” she said.
For more information, go to westgatefarmersmarket.com.