This past Friday officially started the holiday season at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. In addition to the regular hours (8 AM - 2 PM Friday & Saturday), the market included extended evening hours during the Carlisle Downtown Association's Holiday activities--lighting of the Christmas tree in the town square and the arrival of Santa.
Beside our regular vendors were a few additional producers who set up on Friday night and all day Saturday. There was also a cooking demonstration Saturday morning from the market's favorite Chef, Jason Turner who whipped up some delicious goodies with products from various market vendors.
Judy & Jonas Stoltzful from JuJo Acres in Perry County raise some of the finest Certified Organic grass-fed beef you'll ever eat were there will assorted cuts of their meat and sampling Judy's awesome beef bone broth.
Jonas with some of his wonderful beeves.
Dickinson College's farm brought an array of freshly-picked chemical-free produce. The students are always enthusiastic, as you can see from their accessories. I believe the interaction they have with the public can be just as valuable as the education they get in the classroom. It's experiences such as this that really prepare one for life in the real world.
Although most people think food when it comes to a farmers market, Linda Singley from Bearlin Acres is the ultimate when it comes to farmer-produced products such as hers. I've known Linda for years and can tell you that she's out there breeding her sheep, birthing them, raising them, having them sheared, washing the wool, spinning the wool into yarn, dying the wool and ultimately, knitting it into the most gorgeous sweaters, hats, mittens, socks, etc. Her farm is home to not just sheep, but also cashmere goats and alpacas who deliver luxurious fiber. Additionally, Linda also produces some mighty tasty lambs.
Another special holiday vendor was Mersida Camdzic, who owns a local European food store in Carlisle. A few years ago I stopped in at her market to purchase some cheeses for a Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance meeting about ethnic cheeses. We struck up a conversation and I gave her my business card. Since then, she has referred a number of customers from her community (Bosnian Muslims) to the farm to purchase goats. It was really special to see them at the market and have them check to make sure I'd have animals available for the upcoming Eid celebration.
I believe that it's good business for farmers to make an effort to reach out to local ethnic communities. Food is such an important part of people's cultural identity and studies have shown that ethnic customers tend to be much more loyal to their food purveyors that your average white bread American.
Ethnic or not, what I've found is that if you produce a quality product in which you take pride, customers will return time and time again.
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