Winter farmers market opens Saturday in Holyoke

  • Produce FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/14/2020 7:21:28 AM

HOLYOKE — Those looking for healthy, local food this winter in downtown Holyoke will soon have a farmers’ market where they can shop twice a month over the winter.

The Holyoke Winter Farmers’ Market is set to open on Dec. 19 at the Holyoke War Memorial at 310 Appleton St., where it will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every first and third Saturday of the month. As the region continues to see rising food insecurity amid the pandemic, vendors will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as SNAP or EBT, as well as SNAP’s Healthy Incentives Program, or HIP.

The farmers’ market is being put on by the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and the Holyoke Food and Equity Collective, an organization combating systemic racism by working to reduce health disparities and build food sovereignty in the city.

“We really wanted to have a market that’s more accessible,” Charlie Henzel, the market’s manager, said. “We’re going to work together to make this market happen, to really drive that food access initiative and to make sure Holyoke, especially during the pandemic, has access to fresh fruits and vegetables and local farmers as well.”

The market will feature five local farms: Apex Orchards of Shelburne, Atlas Farm from South Deerfield, Red Fire Farm from Granby and Montague, D & R Farm from Hampden, and Boze Family Farms from Springfield.

Henzel said that the farmers’ market gives the local community access to local produce, and that it also supports local businesses and farms who are struggling during the pandemic.

“The ultimate goal is to make quality, healthy, affordable food as easily available as possible to people who live part in the neighborhoods of Holyoke that have the least access to that on a regular basis,” said Kara Nye, a co-director of the Holyoke Food and Equity Collective.

Nye said that the market organizers chose to work with vendors that would accept SNAP and HIP, and that the location downtown was picked because of its proximity to neighborhoods that experience higher levels of food insecurity.

“It’s been a learning curve for us to learn the extent to which other farmers’ markets and other organizations around food are not prioritizing that work,” she said.

Large portions of Holyoke are considered “food deserts,” according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means people have limited access to supermarkets or other places where they would have easy access to healthy food. In cities, the USDA defines food deserts as low-income census tracts where a significant number or share of residents live more than a mile from the nearest supermarket, or where residents lack vehicle access and live more than a half-mile from a supermarket.

In a statement announcing the opening, the farmers’ market said that it has worked with the city’s Board of Health on COVID-19 guidelines. Those include a limit on the number of shoppers, temperature checks and mandatory masks.

“Despite the precautions required in response to COVID-19, the Holyoke Winter Market promises to be a bustling community space,” the organizers wrote. “Crave Food Truck will be set up outside so shoppers can grab a meal along with their groceries.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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