Farmers on the Square extended its outdoor hours this year, adding to the Christmas festivities in downtown Carlisle.
Julie Lesman, executive director of Farmers on the Square, said the market usually went inside at Project SHARE for the months of November and December, but that put some of the vendors at a disadvantage. Dickinson College Farm, for example, couldn’t bring its pizza oven inside the building at Project SHARE.
“We noticed our numbers were getting quite low when we go from outside to inside because really we lose all of the possible passersby or people in their cars who may pull over,” Lesman said.
The board of FOTS agreed to stay outside through the final market in December, which will be on Dec. 20, the Wednesday before Christmas. The hours have, however, been shortened to 3-6 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“We’re hoping it adds to the Carlisle community Christmas season by having us out there,” Lesman said.
Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm, a longtime market vendor, commended the board of FOTS for the decision to remain outside as the Square is a highly visible space that contributes to the social aspect of the market. It has become a space where neighbors come together to support local agriculture and to catch up with one another.
“I think it’s great to keep that community feel there at the Square for these extra weeks, especially as folks in the community make plans to cook meals for one another,” he said.
Tirzah Seaford with Roots Cut Flower Farm voted in favor of staying outside for the season when the question was put to a vote.
“Granted, when they gave us the vote it was probably 90-plus degrees and humid,” she said. “There’s something to be said about being at the Square in front of the church during the holidays. There’s still a magic about it.”
Lesman said they are working on adding light to the market as the days continue to get shorter. In addition to the work lights, many of the vendors are adding string lights to their booths to provide added light and a touch of a holiday look.
The market will offer gift items and food or drinks for holiday parties. Holiday music will also be playing at each of the markets.
“I’ve been trying to reach out to musicians we haven’t ever had before like the church choir or a capella groups just to change it up,” Lesman said.
The holiday market also gives Wenk the opportunity to showcase a relatively new product at the Square. Ploughman Cider is a new venture for Three Springs Fruit Farm, about 20 miles south of Carlisle. With its limited winery license through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Ploughman received a farmers market permit allowing it to sell its ciders at farmers markets in the state, as it did when the winter market was indoors last January.
Wenk said they had assumed First Presbyterian Church would not allow sales of alcoholic beverages on its grounds. The FOTS board spoke to the church, and Ploughman Cider will now be available through the entire outdoor season.
“As a compromise, we won’t be pouring samples at the outdoor market but we’re appreciative of the opportunity to sell our cider to the same folks who have enjoyed our apples and other fruits at the market for all of these years,” Wenk said.
The market will move back inside at Project SHARE from 3 to 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from Jan. 1 though the end of April.
Carlisle Borough Council recently approved a request that will allow the market to gain more visibility when it heads back outside for its 2018 season. The council granted the market a special events permit under the auspices of the Downtown Carlisle Association to bring it in compliance with the borough’s sidewalk ordinance. Lesman said the DCA is not a partner with the market, but a sponsor.
The move will benefit some vendors who are now located along the grass in the back corner of the churchyard.
“It would get those vendors off the grass and having them on High Street would make that piece of the market much more visible to passersby and cars going by,” Lesman said.