Visit the Adams County Farmers Market with Reza Djalal [Episode 30]

This Podcast was originally published last summer. But the Farmers Market is now in full swing with enhanced hygiene in place so it seemed like a good to time to present it again.

Please wear a mask and social distance when you are at the Farmers Market.

The Adams County Farmers Market is at its best during the harvest season, and the vendors’ tables are now overflowing with produce.

But in addition to hosting the Saturday morning market, the Adams County Farmers Market Association also sponsors many community and educational activities in the county.

In this podcast I talk with Reza Djalal who has been the market manager since May 2018.

Djalal is an Adams County native who grew up in Biglerville. He graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM in 2015 with a BA in Philosophy and the History of Science and Mathematics.

reza_djalal

Djalal

You can learn more about the farmers market at its website or Facebook page.

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A transcription of the podcast follows:

GC: Hi Reza, and welcome to the podcast. So you’ve been in your position as market manager of the Adams County Farmers Market Association for about a year now, and so I thought it might be a good time for you to share your thoughts about it. Can you talk a little bit about the Farmers Market Association? When did it start? Who founded it? And what’s its mission?

RD: Sure, So the Adams County Farmers Market Association is a 501c(6) nonprofit. It has a twofold mission, sort of.  One side of that mission is to help support businesses, especially small businesses. We want to help small farmers and ranchers and dairies thrive in the area in Adams County. On the other side of that mission is to increase food access and wellness for all residents and all community members. So we do a lot of programming that helps support both ends of that, namely, by operating a farmers’ market that offers a high reward, low risk environment for small businesses to kind of get their start as a platform to launch off into economic success.

GC: Right.  So I want to come back and talk about all the many different programs that you have. But maybe you can tell us where the farmers’ market is located and when it’s open and how late it’s going to be open this year.

RD: Sure. So we operate every Saturday morning between May through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. And we’re set behind the Gettysburg Transit Center. We’re a couple yards away from the Majestic Theater down Carlisle Street. So, yeah, we’re behind the transit center every Saturday morning.

GC: Yeah, and what actually is sold at the market? I mean, I know there would be fruits and vegetables and fresh produce like that, but what else is there?

RD: Uh, well, you know, we have a lot of the typical array of farmers’ market niche items. We have Ragged Edge Roasting Company with us, and they’re pretty well known and have a great coffee product that people might know. We also have some baked-goods vendors. Robin’s Nest does the vendor circuit in different locations. And we have a cool vendor called Sweet Rollers. They only sell cinnamon rolls. That’s it. And it’s kind of like a fundraising organization, and they try to raise money for a lot of different causes. But mainly they raise money to help low income families be able to afford after-school sports programs for their kids in elementary and middle school. But I think that that’s really, really cool. So it’s like we’re helping them, and they’re also nonprofit…a really nice symbiotic relationship where nonprofits were helping each other.

And we also have one big thing that’s happening now is one of our vendors has a bouquet station at her at her stand, and that’s really taken off. And honestly, I think that it’s quite affordable compared to, uh, well, flowers in general are like a big thing. And I think that it is interesting to see the quality and variety of flowers that she brings with her to the market. It’s been really popular.

GC: So there’s more than just fruits and vegetables, right? You also have some meat.

RD: Oh, yeah, yeah, we have some meat. We have two meat sellers who both have very fantastic high-quality products. One seller is Deer Run Farm, and they specialize in heritage breed chickens and eggs. And they also have certified Angus beef products, which are really fantastic. And then the other vendor is Rambling River Pastures. And they have pasture-raised pork, chicken and turkey products as well as beef, which are also really quite fantastic.

GC: I know you also sell some pasta.

RD: Yeah, Yeah. Pastabilities. They’re pretty well-known because that group of ladies was also connected to the Blue Parrot, right? At some time in the past, when formerly known as the Blue Parrot. So they’re kind of well-known business people in Gettysburg, so it’s great to have them as well.

GC: I’ve tried that pasta a few times. So how many vendors do you have and is the number growing?

RD: Yeah, I think that on average, Saturday, we have about 13 vendors, a kind of rotating cycle of guest vendors who come through. I would say that the number of vendors is growing. It’s kind of a two steps forward, one step back type of situation where we will gain some and then some people drop off in some of the best cases. Actually, which kind of lends itself to our mission is that vendors will start with us and start getting some momentum, getting some new possibility and giving their name out there and start generating some serious money. And they move on to wholesale or they move on in a bittersweet way. They to larger markets. They move to Baltimore or DC. They kind of move on from the small scale Gettysburg market, which is kind of part of our mission is about is to help these businesses get started and find success. So we’re happy to see them spread their wings and fly. But yet sometimes we do lose vendors in that respect. But typically, I’d say the trend is upward and we’re always looking for more.

GC: I know one thing that I saw you doing when I was over there was helping vendors who don’t have facilities for collecting money through credit cards, and you took the money and turned it into tokens that people could use.

RD: Yeah, that’s one of the great perks of our market is to help small businesses who are just getting started. Not everyone can afford their own POS system, which means a point of sale system for processing credit cards. So a vendor doesn’t want to lose that sale, obviously, so a customer can come to me and I can process a credit card for them that just one more way that we help vendors capture every sale that they possibly can, and not have a customer turned away because they couldn’t afford their own credit card reader.

GC: How did you get involved in the market; what makes you so interested in farmers’ markets?

RD: Well, I mean, getting the actual position kind of happened in a kind of by chance. I had a friend who knew that the position was open and she said that she thought I’d be a good fit for it. And so I kind of on a whim, sent in my cover letter on my resume. Not really expecting. I thought in my head it was more like practice. I was a good practice for applying and for having interview. But then a day after the interview, they offered me the position and I jumped on it. I was kind of nervous, actually. I thought, Wow, there’s a lot of responsibility. But I think I owned up to it.

And I really enjoy my time at market manager, so I hope to continue.

GC: Yeah, well, you seem very enthusiastic about it when you’re doing it. So it’s a fun job?

RD: Yeah. It’s actually a very fun job.. yeah, that’s kind of farmers markets in general, but also this market in particular. It’s really great to work with the community. It’s really great to work with the vendors and to learn about agriculture, especially in Adams County. It’s so rich around here, so it’s nice to really have some-hands on connection with the with the farmers who are around here. It’s great to feel like my work is making a positive impact on the community. I really enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor actually making a difference in people’s lives. Both the vendors and the customers in a lot of cases.

GC: Yeah, the farmer’s market really is a very special place, I think, where community members come and producers come and everybody interacts on a Saturday morning.

I know you’ve had some special events this year. I was at the Young Entrepreneurs Day. Could you talk about the special events that you host on certain Saturdays during the year?

RD: Sure. So early in the season before the season started, the board of directors was very clear. They were very passionate about having a lot of events. They wanted a lot of event and educational programming this season. That was actually very good guidance on their part. And so they kind of gave me free reign to plan and schedule and come up with events that I thought would be successful at the market.

Some of those events early in the season kind of ran themselves that they had been done before and their committees helped organize them. So it was more just a matter of telling people where to set up — events like Kids Day and Senior Day for kids and for seniors. Yeah, that wasn’t as hard to plan. But then other one like you mentioned Young Entrepreneurs’ Day. That was the first year that we had done it, and, uh, I think it went really well.

And inbetween these big events, we have smaller bits of educational programming. We had Adam’s County Historical Society come to promote their open house and to talk about what they do in the community. And that was really fun. We’ve had different programs.

Leaders come to talk about things. Events like, kind of making a small event out of a bigger event in the community. We have an event with Destination Gettysburg coming up. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun where a bunch of Pour Tour partners will be at the market kind of as  guest vendors and they will be promoting their products and talking about the process of making the different spirits and alcohol that they make.

Uh, that’ll be cool. Everyone likes alcohol, typically. We’re having the Gettysburg Master Gardeners Club come to do demonstration next month. So yeah we have a lot of small and large size events. I think that has really lent itself to the community aspect of the market to bring a different demographic out to bring a different group of people out with certain interests or to appeal to those people.

And also o I think education is an important part of any farmers’ market. It’s a component that you can’t really get at a typical grocery store and have that kind of face time with different organizations and community members.

GC: When we were talking earlier, you mentioned the Pour Tour event that’s on September 28 and you said they were going to have a little passport.

RD: Oh, yeah, yeah. So if anyone’s familiar with the regular Pour Tour through Destination Gettysburg, you get like this really cool passport. And then you take the passport to each of the locations and they will stamp it for you. So for our event on the 28th customers who are interested can get like a mini passport for the vendors who will be with us that day, and they can just go down the line of vendors at the market and get it stamped, which I thought was like a really cool, cute idea. Yeah, some cross promotion and interactivity with the customer. Just fun. Yeah, I’m really happy to be working with Destination Gettysburg in this capacity. They’ve been really awesome and helpful. I think the event will be a really fun time.

GC: That sounds like a lot of fun. So Reza what are the benefits?  I mean, you could buy fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Why would you come to the farmers’ market to buy them instead of that regular store?

RD: Uh, we know there are a lot of reasons, I think, that make the farmer’s market worthwhile. One reason in particular is the variety. I think that it’s kind of it’s pretty much known. It’s fair to say that for varieties at the grocery store we’ve been trained as consumers to kind of buy tomatoes of a certain size and a certain color. And that’s true for any type of produce. Carrots certain size, certain color celery, certain size, certain color. We are trained to see a very small swath of the different varieties that actually exist of these different plants.

And so at the farmers market you have access to all the different heirloom varieties and things that you might not normally be exposed to. Not to mention the fact that the reason grocery stores only select certain varieties of fruits and vegetables is because those varieties have been selected typically for shelf life, you know, in order to make that kind of system sustainable.

Tomatoes have to last quite a long time from being picked to being transported to being stored and then finally reaching the grocery store shelf. So varieties have been selected that prioritized longevity over flavor or nutritional value in some cases. And so when you go to the grocery store, what you’re buying is probably at least a week if not more old since being picked, whereas the farmer’s market sometimes those farmers wake up at three o’clock in the morning or four o’clock in the morning and harvest and then go straight to the market. So you’re getting something that was picked that day versus a week ago.

So that’s one of the many reasons. Another very strong reason is that you’re supporting local farmers, supporting small businesses there, supporting families you’re supporting neighbors where, as you know, a typical grocery store chain doesn’t have that same kind of immediate effect on the local economy and on local residents.

GC: Yeah. So you know, there are people in the county — too many — who are food insecure. I know that the Farmers Market Association is trying to help with that. Could you talk about the programs that you have that are designed to help people in the community?

RD: Sure, yeah, well we do a lot. I think we have a lot of great programs that are very important that our claim to fame kind of the one that I think was the first program to be created and that kind of gave us momentum is the SNAP Double-Dollars program. SNAP is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

So snap recipients will get an EBT card, and we have the infrastructure of the market to process those cards. And not only do we accept EBT transactions, but we actually double the buying power of SNAP recipients by basically when they when they charge their card, we give them double what they charge in market currency. So if they charge $5 to their card they get $10 worth of tokens. So they can use those tokens to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmer’s market. That was our claim to fame. That was our first thing in the double-dollars program.

We also have a great program through Wellspan that we accept. It just called Market Bucks. And this is for people who are suffering from, uh, diet-related health issues like diabetes or obesity. And they can use the market bucks to come and buy fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market. That has been pretty awesome in pretty successful. That’s also growing very rapidly, which is cool.

And then another program, I think, is really also taking off. And probably one of our strongest programs is our FMNP matching program, so FMNP is the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program and these are checks issued to income-eligible seniors and also mothers through WIC. And these people can bring their check to the market. And they can spend these checks at a lot of places, many roadside stands and many different markets will accept them. But if they spend them at our market in particular, then we double the buying power of those checks as well, similar to the double dollars program with SNAP. So they spend their check with us. Then we turn a $5 check into $10 worth of fruits and vegetables.

GC: Yeah, so it sounds like you’re doing a lot of helpful things for the community. And you do education programs as well.

RD: Yeah, so I mean education in a couple different varieties. Like I mentioned, we have events that that I try to have an educational component, but we also have a food access program called Healthy Options, a program through healthy Adams County, which is a nonprofit division of Wellspan Health and the Healthy Option program provides healthy options recipients with currency to spend in the market. But there’s also an educational component. That’s where they were getting educated on nutrition and different cooking classes are offered. And I think budgeting is in there, so there’s a couple different aspects of the healthy option program that’s more than just food access — also educational. And right now, I believe healthy options is serving 130 families and 65 seniors.

GC:Wow. So, um, I know that you took the farmer’s market once to Misty Ridge, which is a housing development out toward Biglerville, I think. How did that go?

RD: Well, it was fun. It was great. And, you know, we just missed the rain. That was helpful. Yeah, the misty Ridge mobile market was a fun event. I think it was good for that community to even know that the market exists and to know what we have available what means are at their disposal to make farmers’ market produce more accessible.

Um, yeah. I think that one of the up one of the struggles that we always have had and always will have in a sense, is awareness. I think that people would people would be more inclined to come shop with us if they knew. Some people just don’t know what we have. They don’t know about the program. They don’t know about the resources that are available. And so the Misty Ridge Mobile Market was good because just it helped us get right there in the heart of, ah, community, who in many cases could really benefit from the things that we have available.

I’ve seen a lot of Misty Ridge people come to the market the morning after that. Yeah, So I think it worked out really well, and we hope to do it again next year.

GC: Yeah, well, I’m really impressed with all the different things that you do and your enthusiasm and, uh, the ways that you help all the residents of the county and the growers and everything, and it’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. Is there anything else you’d like to tell people about the market in the last minutes we have?

RD: Sure. Well, I would say if you’ve never been to the market, please come and check us out. Like I said, we are behind the Transit Center, very close to the Majestic. Uh, this is the time of year to come. Check us out in mid-August, and the vendors’ tables are literally like overflowing with all kinds of colorful produce and many, many of the things that I’ve never seen before or never tried before. A lot of interesting varieties to get your hands on and also all the all the favorites you know, watermelon and cantaloupe melons. And, uh, peaches are coming in. Apples will be in soon.

Yes, so if you haven’t been come check us out. We also have free parking which I think is a big deal in Gettysburg. If you enter the market site through Stratton Street, there’s plenty of free parking. You’ll definitely find a spot. So we welcome you to come every Saturday morning through October to come check us out.

If you come,  come see me, I’ll be there.

GC:  Reza, great chatting with you. Thank you so much. And I’ll see you on Saturday at the farmers’ market.

RD: Sounds great. Thank you.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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