Germantown native Billy Keck strolled into the Wyck Farmers’ Market one recent Friday to pick up fresh corn and eggplant. Like many customers, he bought more than he intended from the colorful display of homegrown onions, tomatoes, apples, peaches and just-picked potatoes.
“They’re helping the community, so it’s great,” said Keck, 75. “We need places like this.”
In a low-income neighborhood where grocery stores are few and far between, the Wyck Farmers’ Market provides fresh, low-cost produce, most of it grown on site at the Wyck farm, which is located near the corner of Germantown Avenue and Walnut Lane.
The market is open from 2 to 6 p.m. every Friday from the start of June through the end of November.
Other vendors there, too
Riehl’s Family Farm, a Lancaster-based business, is now in its second season of selling produce and fresh baked cakes at Wyck.
“It’s a wonderful place, and it’s a really gorgeous property,” said Katie Brownell, 28, who manages the farm and produce stand. “It’s like a little oasis in Germantown.”
The sidewalk stand sits on Germantown Avenue, just off the 2.3 acres surrounding the historic Wyck House. The property has been farmed for more than 250 years and now grows everything from potatoes and peppers to lettuce and sweet corn.
Pete Monteiro, a 55-year-old Germantown native, has shopped at the market for at least five years. He went to Germantown’s St. Vincent de Paul High School, which is now closed, and has seen many other institutions in Germantown come and go over the years.
“It’s nice to see something thrive here,” said Monteiro. “It’s great that the people of Germantown have access to something fresh like this.”
Providing accessibility and affordability are primary goals for The Wyck House and its partner, The Food Trust, a Philadelphia non-profit group that promotes fresh food in urban neighborhoods.
The market’s goals
An estimated one in five adults in southeastern Pennsylvania have just one serving of fruit or vegetables each day, according to an annual health survey conducted by the Public Health Management Corp., a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.
The Food Trust works with farmers, such as those at Wyck, to make sure everyone can afford and has access to nutritious food.
“The produce at grocery stores is too expensive,” said Keck. “I live on a fixed income, so we need places like this to get our produce.”
Many patrons, including 78-year-old Lizzie Davis of West Johnson Street, use federally funded vouchers to purchase their produce.
“Not everywhere accepts them, and the variety here is great,” she said. “It’s much better than shopping at a grocery store.”
According to an Agriculture Department study, nearly 30 million lower-income Americans live more than a mile from the nearest supermarket. Such “food deserts” exist in parts of Germantown, making Wyck a lifeline for many residents, especially the elderly.
Booker Johnson, a 75-year-old Fayette Street resident, has been purchasing produce from the Wyck Farmers’ Market for five years.
“It’s convenient for me because I’m in the area,” Johnson said. “I don’t have access to a lot of places like this, so I’m glad they’re here.”
Germantown Hunger Initiative
Reaching people like Johnson is one of the aims of the Germantown Hunger Initiative, a newly formed group which hopes to coordinate various anti-hunger programs now operating in the neighborhood.
The group will hold its second meeting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Wyck House, said Thomas Wingert, program development director at La Salle University, which is spearheading the effort.
Amanda Staller is a La Salle University student who writes for GermantownBeat, a local student-produced news site. NewsWorks features articles from GermantownBeat on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites and contributes multimedia journalism training to the program.