HAZLETON — Earlier this year, there were concerns among organizers that the growth of a budding farmers market in the city would be cut short.
“We are a little bit scaled-back this year,” said Donna Palermo, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce. “Quite frankly, a lot of it has to do with the construction that’s going on, but some of our farmers that we had last year came from a little far away.”
The dedication of one farmer put things back on track for 2013, and the Downtown Hazleton Farmers Market opens its third season on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Citiscape parking lot on West Broad Street, Hazleton. The lot is adjacent to the chamber offices at 20 W. Broad St., Hazleton.
The loss of some past farmers, including some who traveled from Bloomsburg and Catawissa, threatened the stability of the event. Enthusiasm from Burger’s Farm Market in Drums turned the tide.
“We actually didn’t know if we were going to have it or not because we lost a couple of farmers who were from outside the area. Lenny Burger felt, knowing the farming industry as well as he does, that we needed to stay the path, stay the course. In his experience, it takes several years for the markets to really start to grow,” Palermo said. “We said, ‘If you are willing to come up from the valley and continue this with the hopes that it will continue to grow, we’ll go with it.’ He was more than willing to do that.”
With things back on track, a full schedule is planned, Palermo said.
The kick-off event tomorrow will include participation from the Center for Landscape Design and Stewardship, crafter Lily Beans Bowtique, children’s activities presented by the Hazleton YMCA/YWCA, and music from DJ Tony Pacelli. Live Well Luzerne County also will host a family-friendly bike ride from the YMCA/YWCA to the farmers market.
The Penn State Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will present discussions every other week, beginning this Saturday, from 10-11 a.m. in the chamber’s board room at 20 W. Broad St. The first workshop focuses on raised-bed gardens.
“We’re hoping to have a good first day, and then it will continue every Saturday right through the end of August,” Palermo said.
Construction has been an ongoing issue in downtown Hazleton for the past four years, Palermo said, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent to anyone seeking fresh produce. Free parking is available on Mine Street and in the South Wyoming Street parking garage, and the market is just one block from the city’s intermodal center, at 126 Mine St.
Aside from promoting local produce, the chamber hopes to get more people interested in downtown Hazleton.
“Naturally we’re trying to bring people downtown. We are fortunate that we have quite a few senior citizens buildings that are on Juniper Street and Mine street, so it’s convenient for them,” Palermo said. “Most of them now don’t drive, and they’re able to walk a block to the market and get their fresh produce and vegetables.
“It’s nice, too, because we do have a very large Hispanic population downtown, and it’s nice to see that Hispanic population come to the market as well,” she added.
Palermo said she’ll be hunting for fresh blueberries when the market opens Saturday.
New vendors are welcome to join the market through the end of the 2013 season. They must pay a one-time $50 vendor fee for this year. Additional information, including a vendor application, is available at www.hazletonchamber.org.
For more information, contact the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce at (570) 455-1509, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hazletonchamber.org.