On weekends where my husband and I aren’t traveling around PA, a highlight of Saturday is my walk to the Broad Street Market. I live in Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood (Midtown Square if we’re being particular), and the market is just blocks away. There’s something comforting about grabbing my grocery bag and heading to the market to see what’s fresh. I take a list, but like at any market — I’m flexible and ready to buy something spontaneously because it looks enticing. Every week I’m reminded how lucky I am to have the market nearby. Broad Street Market is an important aspect of why I love living where I do.
Like many farmers markets, the Broad Street was at one time thriving, but fell on rough times. It was hard for farmers markets to keep up with the introduction of the supermarket. The very premise of the local farmers market is the antithesis of industrial agriculture. Many of PA’s markets have been revitalized recently as cities have reinvested and people have embraced the farm-to-table movement. Broad Street is still trying to find its footing after some recent challenges. Sometimes it seems the market just can’t catch a break. A lot of that has to do with “chronic turnover in management” over the last 15 years. According to Jonathan Bowser, President of the Broad Street Market Board, “this has led to the lack of continuity, leadership, consistency, financial stability and vision.”
But I have high hopes for the market. The current management team seems to be making good decisions. I’ve seen more vendors open than close in the last couple months. As we hit the 2015 growing season, I’m optimistic the market can shake off the bad luck and become the thriving retail hub my neighbors need.
Stone, Wood and Brick
Like its cousins in Philadelphia and Lancaster, the Broad Street Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country. I actually didn’t realize until starting this site that our state hosts as many historical markets as it does. The Broad Street Market consists of two separate structures, currently separated by a courtyard. The older “Stone Market” building, which features the market sign overlooking 3rd street, was completed in 1863. The rear “Brick Market” building was completed in 1878. In previous years, a “Wood Market” ran between the two buildings. The newer granite courtyard actually shows the location of walls, stairs and other features from the old Wood Market.
As I mentioned, the market has seen some ups and downs. At its peak in the 1920s, the market housed more than 725 vendors. By 1960, that number was down to 300. At this point, by my best guess the market has 20-30 vendors.
(By the way, brownie points for those of you that get the “Stone, Wood and Brick” comment.)
Farmers at Broad
Starting up this weekend (May 16) is the market’s outdoor, producer-only farmers market. From May to October, every Saturday the courtyard hosts local farmers and producers in addition to the regular indoor vendors. While many of the indoor vendors sell PA-grown or produced items, all of the vendors selling outside at Farmers at Broad come from within a 50 mile radius from Harrisburg.
According to the market management, the goals of Farmers at Broad are:
- To give local farmers and producers access to eaters and buyers in Harrisburg
- To educate Harrisburg residents and other visitors to the Broad Street Market about the importance of locally sourced food
- To provide healthy and delicious options to their customers and visitors
As you can probably imagine, that’s big to me. On my spring and summer market trips, I make an effort to purchase as much as I can from the Farmers at Broad vendors.
The vendors at Farmers at Broad include produce and meat vendors, but more importantly, you can get ALCOHOL! This year there will be cider, wine and beer vendors selling their wares in the courtyard on Saturdays. You can pick up all the fresh, local ingredients you need for a yummy dinner and a local drink to wash it down with! And I can vouch for the beverage vendors: Big Hill Ciderworks, Spring Gate Vineyards and Zeroday Brewing Co. are all worth trying.
You’ll also be able to find artists, musicians, kids’ activities and other events throughout the season.
I mentioned earlier that while many of the indoor vendors sell PA-grown or produced items, not all of them do. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want them to. If Broad Street only featured PA items, I’d never be able to get the cheap lemons and limes I depend on for cocktails from Peach Ridge Produce. But you’re reading Made From PA, so let’s look at some of my favorite truly local vendors with permanent spots inside the market.
- The Millworks Farm Stand: Honestly, the Millworks Stand is probably the only stand I am guaranteed to visit each trip to the market. Two main reasons for that: #1 We get our milk here and I need to exchange my empty bottle for a new one, and #2 I know that any produce available here is locally grown, as they only source locally. Oh yeah, and #3 I’m addicted to EP!C Pickles Spicy Dills, which are sold here. Totally overpriced, but I can’t help myself! Shoot, there’s a #4 They also sell Torchbearer Sauces, and I can never have enough hot sauce (check out my Curry Chicken and Vegetables with their Psycho Curry sauce).
- Fisher’s Bakery: It isn’t a Pennsylvania farmers market without a significant Pennsylvania Dutch presence. You’ll find any number of PA Dutch-run stands at Broad Street, but Fisher’s is the one to head to if you’re looking for baked goods. They do all sorts of things at Fisher’s, but…the donuts. I’m telling you, the donuts.
- Green Ridge Acres: There are a few great meat counters at Broad Street, but the only one with a focus on selling local, pasture-raised animals is Green Ridge. In a center stall not far from their meat and produce, Green Ridge also runs a bulk food stand. They aren’t all local, but the nuts, spices, and other bulk items are worth browsing. They carry everything from coconut oil to loose teas, hard-to-find grains, and a number of gluten free flours, pastas and other items.
Made From PA Tips:
Watch where you park. There are about 200 free spots around the market itself, but if you go for street parking nearby, be ready to feed the meter. As of last year, parking around the market in Midtown now costs you. If you are hitting the market on a Saturday, however, use the Pango app and code “LUVHBG” for 4 hours of free parking.
Come hungry. The market has great spots to pick up your weekly groceries, but they also have some amazing prepared food vendors. A lot of people swear by the BBQ from Two Brothers, and you can grab a sushi-grade tuna shooter from JB Kelly. My personal Saturday pattern is to pick up a mocha from Elementary Coffee Co., which I drink as I do my shopping, and a curry chicken burrito from Soul Burrito on my way home. (Get the Jamaican Sensation burrito with everything. Trust me)
Do a lap first. While there’s an effort to bring variety to the market, there is some overlap in product between a few of the produce and meat vendors. I’d recommend doing a lap around the Brick building before making your purchases to evaluate who has what, what the quality is, and what is the best price. See my aforementioned tip about coffee and walking.