The farmers market at First Presbyterian Churchin Warren, PA, offers more than fresh produce and baked goods — it also helps provide hunger relief to people across the country and globe.
This year, the farmers market donated $7,000 to the Presbyterian Hunger Program, which fights hunger in the United States and around the world through direct food relief, development assistance, public policy influence, lifestyle integrity and education and interpretation.
First Presbyterian Church has been donating to the program for the past seven years — about $45,000 in all — said Bill Dyke, treasurer of the farmers market.
All the products sold at the church’s booth have been donated, and the stand is staffed by a rotation of church member volunteers. Popular items include pecan rolls and three-pound pies, Dyke said, adding that the freshness of the produce is also a huge draw.
“Locally produced, fresh produce is better than anything you can buy in the store,” he said. “Ours is picked the morning we sell it.”
In addition to providing fresh produce, farmers markets have several benefits, said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for national hunger concerns for the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
“There are a whole slew of positive ripples from selling locally at farmers markets,” he said.
Farmers markets support local farmers, allowing them to stay on their land and reducing development. Buying locally helps protect local food sources, providing food security as well as reducing the economic and environmental costs of shipping food across wide distances.
“By having farmers markets around an area, you make healthy food more accessible to a greater number of people,” Kang Bartlett said, adding farmers markets have a personal appeal as well. “It allows you to develop a relationship with the people who are making your food.”
First Presbyterian Church had been looking at ways to tie in its connection with the farmers market to a mission program of some sort when the idea of donating money to the hunger program came up. With the connecting tie of food, the two organizations were a good match.
“(The church) decided that this would be a worthy project,” Dyke said.
As time went on, the church became more involved with the farmers market, bringing in more vendors and working to promote the market to the community. The market recently received a government grant that will help purchase highway signs and cloth bags, and the market is publicized everywhere from to the city chamber of commerce and the local newspaper to a real estate agency.
“Our church is really spearheading the whole farmers market at this point,” Dyke said. “Everybody knows where the Presbyterians are coming from.”
In addition to the standard farmers market fare of fruits, vegetables and baked goods, First Presbyterian Church also offers fair trade coffee at its booth.
Churches interested in starting their own farmers markets are encouraged to contact other churches with markets for advice and ways to get started. To find such churches in your area, contact the Presbyterian Hunger Program at (888) 728-7228.