Upper Arlington Farmers Market season expanded, food-assistance partnership added

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

In addition to its typical offerings of produce, meats and other foods and drinks, the Upper Arlington Farmers Market this year will feature an extended season, a partnership with a local food pantry and “Yoga in the Park” program.

Despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, face-mask requirements and an effort to streamline shopping to maintain social distancing, the 2020 farmers market averaged more weekly customers (495) than the previous year (395), according to Michelle White, executive director of Common Greens. 

The 2021 Upper Arlington Farmers Market will run from May 19 through Oct. 27 this year. In addition to the expanded season, market organizers plan to launch a pilot program to enable shoppers to support First Community Church's Heart to Heart food pantry, and a new "Yoga in the Park" program could be added to the festivities.

The Columbus nonprofit has operated farmers markets throughout central Ohio for nine years, including Upper Arlington’s the past two seasons.

“The (UA) Farmers Market facilitates personal connections and relationships of mutual benefits between farmers, shoppers and the community,” White said. “Its purpose is multifaceted, serving as an essential access point for fresh, locally-produced foods, a vital revenue source for small farmers and businesses and as an inclusive and safe space for the community to gather.”

With those missions in mind, as well as the continued popularity of the market, Common Greens and the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department is expanding this year’s season by about a month.

This season will kick off May 19 and run each 4-7 p.m. Wednesday through Oct. 27 and again will be held at the northwest corner of the Tremont Pool parking lot, 2850 Tremont Road.

Patrons can again expect to find Ohio-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as pasture-raised meats, eggs, artisan cheeses and breads, honey, jams, baked goods, coffee and more, as well as a rotating selection of food trucks and, pending approval from the Ohio Department of Health, live music.

In addition to the traditional offerings, the market is piloting a “Neighbor Foods” program in partnership with the First Community Church Heart to Heart food pantry, 1944 W. First Ave., Columbus.

On the first market of each month, patrons will have the opportunity to “buy another” for a neighbor in need.

Contributions will be distributed at the pantry the following day.

“Recognizing that pantries across the state have seen significant increases in both the number of families served and the pounds of food distributed in 2020, this program was a natural partnership to build upon our goals of connecting as many people in the community as possible with fresh, local foods from the market while supporting the small businesses that work to grow and produce it," White said. 

As it has the past two years, the market again will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, Produce Perks and Women, Infants & Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons.

“We are very proud to be a SNAP retailer, supplying high-quality foods for all who visit the market,” said Elizabeth Doublass, Common Greens board chair. “Market produce can be a very economical choice due to farmers’ reduced expenses of travel and packaging to bring products to market.”

Additionally, a “Yoga in the Park” program is planned in conjunction with the weekly market, as it doesn’t conflict with any ODH guidelines.

“We are still working through the details of this program, but we hope to offer a yoga program during market hours that will take place near the market in Northam Park,” said Matt Leber, the city’s recreation superintendent. “We felt it was a wellness activity that could pair well with the farmers market and the location of the market.”

As for pandemic-related restrictions or requirements, White said the market will abide by OHD guidelines. A list of regulations is available at getfreshmarkets.org, and White said they’ll be updated as necessary.

“We will continue to monitor ODH guidelines leading up to and through the market season and operate in accordance with the current guidelines,” she said.   

White and Debbie McLaughlin, Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation director, said they’re looking forward to another successful market season.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to get fresh produce and goods and support local farmers,” McLaughlin said. “The planned additions to the market this year should create an even more vibrant experience for marketgoers.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate