In the spring of 1994, a group of local farmers held a meeting to discuss starting a produce only farmers market. At that time, farmers markets featuring local farmers selling their produce had disappeared from local towns. The few markets left may have called themselves farmers markets but it was in name only. You could find a multitude of items there but you would not find any real farmers.
To differentiate our market from those huckster markets, our goal was to create a market in which farmers would only sell produce they actually grew. No reselling of any produce. To reinforce the difference between the market we wanted to create versus the huckster markets in existence, we opted to call it a Growers Market
Our original goals in forming this market were two fold: first, to create marketing opportunities for local farmers and second, to bring quality local fruits and vegetables into local communities. Idealistic and beneficial as these goals may seem, they originally faced opposition. In fact, that first year, two communities turned down our request to start a growers market and our plans were put on hold.
In the early winter of 1995, a letter was sent off to the Borough of West Chester, our third choice of location, to see if they perhaps had interest in hosting our Growers Market. And we simply could not have had better timing. The Borough was actively looking for ways to revitalize a slumping downtown and a farmers market was on their agenda. The Borough got right behind the idea and offered the growers the choice of several different locations. Our original choice of the parking lot on the corner of Church & Chestnut Streets still is the current home of the market.
The market opened in July of 1995 to a receptive audience that has continued to grow every year since. And even though West Chester was not our original choice, it has proven to be absolutely the best choice we could have made. Through the years, the market has continued to grow, constantly looking for farmers, bakers and craft makers who will add more uniqueness to the market. Originally, there were 10 farmers who opened the market and we are very fortunate to still have four of those families still in the market; the Stoltzfus’s, Fahnestock’s, Kerschner’s and Hauser’s.
Not only has the market accomplished its original goal of bringing local farmers and their produce into communities, it has been the model for other markets to follow. When West Chester opened in 1995, it was the first and only produce-only market in Southeastern Pennsylvania. From its example, markets have spawned into numerous communities throughout the region, each looking to duplicate the success of West Chester. Yet probably the market’s greatest achievement may be in the bond that has grown between the community of West Chester and local farmers. It has shown that consumers and farmers together build a community.