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Farmers market thrives at temporary location

“Today really exceeded my expectations.”

PJ Salerno’s sentiment was shared by many on Saturday.

Salerno, an owner of Foothill Farm in Mahoning Township, was one of several delighted vendors at the Lehighton Downtown Winter Farmers Market, which shifted from Lehighton’s Lower Park to the Hofford Mill in Weissport.

“We had a great turnout,” said Salerno. “Bambi (Elsasser, treasurer of the Lehighton Downtown Initiative) is in charge of the market, and she does an awesome job advertising on Facebook. Just getting people out here is great; that’s all her.

“And just the farmers in general help bring people back every week. Having good products - good, quality products. It really means something to the market when you’re able to have high quality produce and other stuff.”

The event, which Elsasser said was a “producer goods market,” featured a variety of homegrown, homemade and handmade goods, many of which were quick to sell out.

“I don’t even know if it’s 10 a.m. and there are a ton of people here,” Elsasser said. “This is much, much needed in this time right now.

“Our local farmers need the support - our vendors, our local businesses - they all need the support. And this is just a great way to show it. We’re very pleased that the Hofford Mill reached out to us, and that we can have the farmers market here. It’s great.”

Patrons in attendance were required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“This is still part of our winter market, which we normally have in town,” Elsasser said. “But with the state of emergency, we are not allowed to be on borough property, which I definitely understand.

“So we posted that we couldn’t be opened the Saturday before Easter, and Kathryn (McEvilly, owner and CEO of the Hofford Mill) reached out to me and suggested having it here. It just kind of went from there.”

Lori Gaul, owner of Rolling Pin Pastries in Easton, was thankful for the opportunities the event provided.

“It’s been amazing,” Gaul said. “We work hard to produce all these items, and people want to buy some real products, and I think that’s what everybody has been waiting for.”

And it’s something Gaul hopes will continue.

“It’s been uncertain,” she said. “What is going to happen when people are allowed to shop again? Are they all going to head out to the big box stores again and forget about us? How can we encourage them and keep them supporting the small businesses, which is just so important.”

While Gaul offered a variety of baked goods, Salerno offered a variety of jarred items, a few garden plants and some garlic left over from the fall.

“But in a couple weeks we’ll have lots of vegetables ready to sell,” he said. “I hope people realize how important small, local businesses are, especially small, local farms to provide food for people in times of crisis like this.”

Masks were also available to purchase at $4 apiece courtesy of Stacy and Chad Smith of Lehighton.

They were sold out within 30 minutes.

“Our totes are empty,” Stacy Smith said. “I have more materials at home and I’ll take orders and give out our card with our phone number.

“I was working on it all day yesterday. And we sold over 100 in a half-hour.”

Smith said she can be reached by phone at 484-464-0675, and those interested in placing an order should leave their name and phone number and what type of mask they are looking for, elastics or tie-backs.

“I have donated some to the cancer center at Lehigh Valley,” Stacy said. “I’ve donated to people who don’t have the money, or depending on the circumstances.

“If I have it, I’m going to use it. When I first started, they were $2, but then I had to start buying supplies, so I had to raise it to $4.”

Sizes available are a standard size and extra large, all of which are double-layered. The turnaround time for each mask is about two days.

“I’m usually sewing at 7 a.m. until 1 or a.m.,” she said. “I’m not getting much sleep at that point.”

The next winter market is scheduled for May 9. The summer market does not start until May 16, and Elsasser said that a decision will be made at that time regarding the event’s location.

Regardless of its setting or the circumstances, Elsasser is optimistic for an outlook like Saturday’s.

“Just come out and support local. That’s so important,” she said. “This is such a tough time for everybody. Our farmers, our vendors, our bakeries, even downtown Lehighton, Weissport, we really need the help of the patrons.

“Wear your masks, do your social distancing, and everything will be fine.”

Stacy and Chad Smith of Lehighton quickly sold out of their masks at the Lehighton Downtown Farmers on Saturday. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS
Cindy Berger of Lehighton stops to see what PJ Salerno of Foothill Farm in Mahoning Township has to offer.