Sad news from the Reading Terminal Market today: The Fair Food Farmstand will be closing. Fair Food, the nonprofit who has run the beloved Farmstand, will continue its advocacy work, and will still run the Philly Farm and Food Fest, which will take place at the Navy Yard on October 28. (The event had previously been held in the spring.)
The Fair Food Farmstand was an extension of White Dog Community Enterprises, the nonprofit arm of local food trailblazer Judy Wicks’ White Dog Cafe. (Here’s our story from May 2012 about the genesis of the local food movement.) Spearheaded by their longtime founding executive director, Ann Karlen, the small stand had an entrepreneurial bent, and experienced rapid growth. In its heyday, the Farmstand carried a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, poultry, dairy, cheese, eggs and more from more than 90 sustainable farms and food producers in southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, including urban farms within the city of Philadelphia. The Farmstand had been unique in offering the product mix of the best farmers’ market with the convenience and accessibility of a grocery store – including accepting and incentivizing SNAP card purchases for lower income customers.
For almost 20 years, The Fair Food organization has been at the forefront of the food movement, advocating for a vibrant local food economy and promoting the benefits of local, sustainable agriculture throughout the region. Beyond the farmstand, events and educational initiatives strengthen relationships within our regional food system. With the evolution of the food movement, the organization says it is choosing to adapt its work to support the broader mission.
From John Rhoads, Interim Executive Director:
“For some time now, we have considered the long-term viability of the farmstand and its strategic importance to the organization, and over the course of the last year we have been evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the farmstand as a business. Local food is much more broadly available now in the retail marketplace than when the farmstand began, which has proved a double-edged sword. From Fair Food’s nonprofit perspective, growing competition is proof our overall mission has been successful, but it does not guarantee continued profitable operation of the farmstand. Our direction as an organization is also changing, and it no longer makes sense for us to maintain a retail outlet while trying to refocus our efforts on our advocacy work and events. Careful consideration was given in making this decision, and we are confident it is the right path for our organization.”