The Bellevue Farmers Market, like so many events, faced unexpected challenges last season. This year it returns stronger than ever, back to its original location and with nearly double the vendors. As he did last year, market manager Bryan Davidson, of Avalon, expects to roll with the punches to adhere to ever-changing Covid-related guidelines.
Starting June 2nd, the market will return to Bayne Park, on Teece Avenue, each Wednesday from 3 pm to 7 pm. It will run through October. Last year, with parks closed, the Market’s committee members scrambled to find space and landed at the AHN Suburban parking lot in Bellevue. Social distancing, masks and one-way traffic flow were not part of the plan when Davidson took the manager’s position just months before. “I don’t know if I’d have agreed to do it during a pandemic,” he laughed. He said the cooperation of vendors and support of the community was instrumental in its success. “The whole community really came together. The things that kept me up at night, none of those things happened,” he said.
The market fits well into Davidson’s schedule. He is a high school English teacher for the Pa Cyber Charter School and has summers off. He receives a small stipend as Market Manager and leads a committee of 10 volunteers.
Shoppers can expect a variety of new products this season. Jordan’s Tomb, of Bellevue, will sell coffee beans, teas, and specialty drinks. Auburn Meadow Farms, of West Middlesex, Pa, will offer fresh-cut meat. Kingfly Spirits, a Strip District distillery, and Breadworks, of the North Side, will also set up shop.
Returning vendors include The Cakery, Uncle Jammy’s Sauces and Iron Alley Soaps. It’s a juried market, Davidson said, with few items repeated. “We try to curate a nice experience for our customers,” he said. In all, approximately 25 vendors will peddle their wares each week.
Joy in Movement, of Bellevue, will provide Yoga in the Park classes. Musicians will add ambiance. A few food trucks will be on hand each week. Food trucks are selected strategically so as not to compete with local restaurant offerings, Davidson explained.
Last year, the Coronavirus accentuated the needs of the community. Many neighbors were, and still are, facing food insecurity. Several Farmers Market volunteers pivoted and formed the Feeding Neighbors Program. With grants and donations, meals were prepared and delivered to homes three times a week. From March to July 2020, 221 volunteers prepared and delivered 30,000 meals to 265 households within a 5-mile radius of Bellevue.
But the kindness didn’t end there. Nearly $8500 in unused Feeding Neighbors funds were put toward another newly formed program, FAM. The Food Assistance Match program maximized government assistance programs already in place. When neighbors used SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) or other food assistance benefits, one dollar in benefits became $3 in buying power. Fundraising is ongoing to continue the FAM program this year. “It became a passion project for some of our community,” Davidson said.
Davidson and his committee look forward to the June 2nd kickoff of the Bellevue Farmers Market season. “We’re expecting a pent-up demand to get outside,” he said.
Photos courtesy of Todd Barnett Photography