Musicians make farmers market a destination

Mark Hill, left, and Kelly Countermine of Biscuit Jam perform at the Boalsburg Farmers Market on Tuesday.
Mark Hill, left, and Kelly Countermine of Biscuit Jam perform at the Boalsburg Farmers Market on Tuesday. For the CDT

Few things are more pleasing than grabbing some cash and heading to an outdoor farmers market in central Pennsylvania in May. You’re outside, the weather is typically ideal and you’re shopping for food that is good for your body and mind, the local economy and the earth.

This Memorial Day, it makes sense to write about Boalsburg, and Boalsburg is home to one of the best farmers markets in our region. Every Tuesday from 2 to 6 p.m., local farmers and food artisans come to Boalsburg to set up, pitch their wares and bless the community with their products.

There’s also music every week that adds to the festive scene and helps establish the farmers market as an event to attend, not just a place to buy food.

“We would like to have a farmers market be something attractive and fun for people,” said Over the Moon Farm owner Lyn Garling. “Music just creates an outdoor market and makes it have so much more ambiance. People can socialize. In our society today we don’t do that much face to face, out in the open.”

Every week musicians come in, set up and play from about 3 to 5 p.m., and it’s not only for the cash. The musicians do make tips, as part of an agreement with some of the vendors, but they also get paid in food, which is a great concept.

“We try to make sure there’s somebody scheduled all summer long,” Garling said. “This year too we added the tent so people can sit down. We surveyed the customers last year, asking how we can improve our market. We had various suggestions, but everybody said, ‘more prepared foods.’ People want to eat now, and a place to sit.”

The music and the food result in a flowing symbiosis, which is nothing new. But add fresh air, local folks offering up the fruit of their labors and an opportunity to participate in a mode of living and eating that results in sending loving-kindness to yourself and others, and all of a sudden it seems like something a doctor should prescribe. Sleep in, go for a hike, hug someone you love, read, write, pursue your passion and buy and eat food from a local farmers market.

“Having a farmers market where people can spend their money in the local economy and support the local farms and local producers is a win-win situation,” Garling said. “It’s local, it’s fresher, it’s cleaner and it supports the local farms. If you want the farms to exist, it’s a good idea to patronize the markets where they show up.”

Vendors also benefit from the addition of music, because it naturally attracts more customers. But it also helps create a scene. It creates a vibe, and it creates a place where both customers and vendors want to be, such as Nomad Kitchen’s visionary owner Meghan McCracken, who gets to set up in the middle of the market, in the midst of all of the food and the music.

“I think it’s fantastic,” McCracken said. “I think there should be more, actually. It just creates something more. I’ve lived in Portland and Philadelphia and Ithaca, N.Y., and places with pretty solid farmers markets and it’s just what you did. Everybody went to the farmers market. It was an event, it wasn’t just you go and buy food. There’s music and kids running around — it creates more of a whole scene.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail .com.