By John Lynds
Next Wednesday the East Boston Farmers Market returns for its ninth season with more fresh, locally grown produce than ever before. The booths will be at the Maverick MBTA station (Lewis Mall side) selling fruits and vegetables every Wednesday from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. through October 19.
The kick off scheduled for 3 p.m. will include a speaking program from Eastie’s elected officials as well as Monica Valdez-Lupi, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. After the ribbon cutting there will be kids activities, give-a-ways and more.
Each year the Farmers Market at Maverick sees more and more new customers and a variety of vendors both old and new. Each week there are special activities like Zumba, music, bike safety lessons and local celebrity chef cook offs to bring attention to the Farmers Market and get more people to participate in the annual tradition.
With many residents in Eastie coming from different places and bring many different tastes, the Farmers Market has become an excellent source for the greens, herbs, fruits, and vegetables of all our traditions: tomatoes, corn and beans, hot peppers and amaranth, yierba mora, and papalo, water spinach and bok choy, pea tendrils, scallions and Asian mustard, collard greens, cilantro, peaches and apples, Italian and sweet Thai basil.
Eastie’s Farmers’ Market began when organizers at the health center’s Let’s Get Movin’ program asked how could they help families in the community increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diets.
The market brings produce picked that day at Massachusetts’s farms to Eastie. The selection changes throughout the season, from lettuce and greens in early summer to apples and squashes in the fall. At the Market, vendors feature produce important to the many cultures represented by the community.
This year, participating farms include Farmer Dave’s, La Sanghita, Asia Farms, Meadowbrook Orchards, Shamrock Hives Farm, as well as fresh fish from Red’s Best. There will be vegetables and herbs from Southeast Asia and Africa, including amaranth and collard greens. As the harvest continues, customers will also find tomatoes, corn, peppers, peaches, apples, cilantro, and basil, among other familiar crops.
This year, the Farmers Market will include the Veronica Robles Cultural Center. The Cultural Center will perform “Dancing Elotes” sponsored by New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).
“Dancing Elotes is a tribute to life and joyful youthful spirits,” said Robles. “This project will include a bike-cart selling elotes, traditionally prepared corn served on the street in Mexico, as a literal and conceptual vehicle for cross-cultural culinary, dance and sculptural experiences at the East Boston Farmers Market.”
Robles said Dancing Elotes will culminate in a large-scale sculpture of traditional Latino dancers made out of the Elote husks and cobs, and dancers performing “La Danza del Permiso” (to request permission from mother earth to work the soil) around an altar at the base of sculptures to celebrate the Day of the Dead, and to honor the lives of the young victims of street violence.
Shopping at the Farmers’ Market is affordable. Families that qualify can use a range of vouchers and coupons to make fresh fruits and vegetables even easier to purchase.
SNAP/EBT participants can use their cards at the market and receive 50 percent off purchases up to $20, thanks to the Boston Bounty Bucks program sponsored by the Food Project and the City of Boston.
WIC participants can save in two ways with the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and with WIC Fruit and Vegetable vouchers.
Eastie’s Farmers’ Market is the only market in the city of Boston participating in this new nutrition voucher program.
The Market is also more than a source for healthy food. It is also a gathering place for the East Boston community. Many residents come to shop but also to see neighbors and friends. Musical and educational events planned for the market this summer will attract more people from a wider area, and will be listed on the East Boston Farmers’ Market web page (www.ebnhc.org/Farmers’Market.php), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EBNHC) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/EBNHC).