This summer's Lehighton Outdoor Farmer's Market has been a boon to Lehighton.
That is the belief of Frank Potoczak, who is director of the fledgling project to bring attention, revitazation and fresh fruits, vegetable and baked goods to the bypass area in Lehighton each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Potoczak said that farmer's markets bring economic revitalization.
"Research has shown that farmers' markets transform cities," he said. "City planners nationwide now recognize the value of the farmers' market. They have evidence that it revitalizes a downtown area like nothing else, by creating an active meeting place and income-producing community. More and more cities are viewing farmers' markets as a positive addition to their cities. The National Main Street Program has incorporated markets as a vehicle to rejuvenate declining downtown areas."
He also noted that farmer's markets have community benefits.
"A successful farmers' market can be a tremendous resource for a community, large or small," he said. "Fresh food is available at a reasonable price, the local agricultural economy as well as the marketplace area receives an economic boost, and a festive and community-enhancing social center draws people together. Farmers' markets, in addition, help fight hunger through their participation in food recovery programs and federally funded subsidy programs."
Then there is the social angle.
He added, "Farmers markets are fun. Farmers markets are important social events. People run into friends and talk, or meet new ones including farmers to exchange recipes. In fact, some markets have adopted the slogan: "Come for the freshness; stay for the fun!"
Some say that the attraction of farmers' markets is fundamentally a human one, he added.
"Shoppers at farmers' markets have seven times as many social interactions in a farmers' market as they do in a grocery store," said Potoczak. "Certainly, they are a return to a form of business and social interaction common for thousands of years, where consumers purchased goods more directly from those who produced them."
Potoczak said that customers trust farmers.
"Customers intuitively follow that trust," he said. "The relationship one has with a produce clerk who doesn't know what country the tomatoes come from simply can't compare with a friendship with a farmer who can tell you what his soil tastes like, why she doesn't irrigate, how the Ace compares with a Zebra, the recipe for her best sauce, or how many weeks before he says so-long for the season."
Potoczak said that local downtown businesses have also benefited from the market's presence on Saturday mornings. which, otherwise, is not a busy time of the week for most of them.
He said that farmers' market customers come to the markets for the superior quality and freshness, unusual varieties, and a chance to support local agriculture and meet the farmers who grow their food.
"Our shoppers can get much higher quality at a competitive price, they're getting a lot better value for their money," he said.
Another benefit is the great opportunity to enjoy the weather and benefit from the variety of fresh fruits and produce available.