A scene at the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market. (Photo by Meredith Bernstein)

by Meredith Bernstein

Bright colors, vibrant smells and welcoming smiles greet you as you walk through the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market, making it the perfect treat for any Saturday morning.

The market sells an assortment of fresh meats, produce, treats and other goods that are locally produced. The Farm to City vendors line their tents along Winston Rd. and Germantown Ave. every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“[The market] is such a happy place,” Market Manager Marisol Villamil said. “The product here is outstanding. It’s amazing how fresh and gorgeous everything is. I get so excited when I come here in the morning.”

Villamil’s excitement is shared by the many vendors that sell at the market. Green Lion Bread, Canter Hill Farm, Fahnestock Fruit Farm, Landisdale Farm, Primordia Farm, Rineer Family Farms, and Taproot Farm sell at the Chestnut Hill location every Saturday. Other vendors like Flour & Oats Artisan Cookies, Foolish Waffles, Hazel & Ash Organics, Local 130 Seafood, Market Day Canele, Randalia Hives, Red Brick Craft Distillery and The Pasta Lab are on a rotating schedule to keep things interesting and fun.

“The customers and vendors are wonderful,” Villamil said. “I love the personal connections that vendors make with their customers. [The vendors] know most of the customers by first name, what they like, and just about everything else.”

These face-to-face relationships attract so many to farmers markets. Over time, vendors and customers get to know each other, forming a community that supports both local residents and vendors.

“There’s a pretty cool scene that’s developed around the bread here,” Green Lion Bread artisan and seller Ryan Hagen said. “Returning customers tell me what they use the bread for and what they buy it for. That kind of connection is something you definitely don’t get when you’re just dropping your goods at grocery stores.”

Hagen spoke about his breads with excitement. Having worked in the bakery industry for the past eight years, Hagen offers expert advice to each customer.

“Would you like to meet all of our breads here?” Hagen asked an interested customer. “This one is our Lancaster Special 100% Whole Wheat bread. Lancaster’s a legit bread. We also have a Classic Country Sourdough. Our Sunday Flex, Ancient Medley and baguettes have also been selling really well lately.”

Thanks to markets like the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market, vendors’ businesses are alive and well. Green Lion Bread doesn’t have a shop, so it does most of its business at farmers markets and a small coffee shop that is attached to its bakery. According to Hagen, the Chestnut Hill location brings the most business of all the farmers markets.

“We try different markets and learn pretty quickly if it’s worth our time,” Hagen said. “There’s a lot of background work for the farmers markets. There’s a lot of packing and organizing and other prep work that happens before we open. It’s like a survival mode.”

It’s definitely survival mode in the winter months and rainy weather. The market stays open all four seasons with shortened hours (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.) in the winter season. The changing seasons call for constant adjustments in quantity demanded for each good.

“When it started getting colder, I was selling the same amount of bread all through the winter,” Hagen said. “When it got warm again, I had to kick up the numbers, and we had to figure out how to make more. Even when it’s raining and stormy out, people will wait for the low in the storm to come to the bread man and then run back home. Then there are times when we have to bring a bunch of the food back, which is kind of a bummer.”

The Chestnut Hill Farmers Market sells so many local ingredients that customers remain loyal to their favorite vendors no matter the season.

“Being local is the key point of this whole thing,” Hagen said. “Just like how people have pride for the sports teams in Philly, people have pride in the local food they eat. Lancaster is 40 miles away from our bakery. We go to an Amish farm, pick it up [grains], bring it back, and then mill it ourselves. It’s such a direct process that isn’t comparable.”

Next time your Saturday and fridge are empty, make sure to stop by this small gem in Chestnut Hill to see its charm for yourself.

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