The New Kid on the Food Block

What happens when four friends get together and hatch a plan to bring more local organic food to the Providence area? You get the Alternative Farmers Market, Rhode Island’s newest farmers market, which opens May 18 at 10am in the Miriam Hospital Lot at 1111 North Main Street.

Jacob Brier, Richard Suls, Rachael McCaskill and Dani Sahner Brier, the four entrepreneurs behind this new event, all share the same passion:  to bring the community together around local food.

This group shares an obvious camaraderie, which is apparent as they debate about how they met. “In any case, we’ve know each other a long time,” says Jacob, laughing as they can’t quite agree about their childhoods. It’s that spirit that trickles over as they talk about their project. In typical Rhode Island fashion, they describe the location as “where the Rhode Island Auditorium used to stand.” 

Jacob notes, “Rachel and I had a farmers market business. We more or less heard from farmers that there were not enough markets, not enough opportunity in Providence. As a customer, I’ve been going to the Hope Street Market since it was at Hope High School.  So I’ve seen it grow from about half a dozen farmers to the 40+ farmers that it is today.  And it feels like it hit an equilibrium. So what we wanted to do was create something that utilized an old site in the area and would allow new farmers access to the Providence area on a Saturday.” 

“Rachael and I are on the board of a farmers market out of Harmony. It’s in its second year and this kind of materialized because of that market in a way. We are friends with the individuals who created that market and I saw the amount of work it took to create that and saw the need for it so we sat down and kind of powwowed and put it together,” says Jacobs. “We’re familiar with each others’ strengths so we kind of broke it up by what everyone could do best.”

One of the first things they had to tackle was where it was going to be.  “We wanted somewhere along the North Main Street area and we identified almost right away that the arena lot. Most weekends, it’s vacant. The hospital was a big fan. They work hard to be a good neighbor to the community and they see this as a good way to promote local culture and really partner with the neighborhood and they were really excited about this,” says Jacob.

And now, after approximately six months of planning and hard work, the market is finally set to open.

Jacob says, “Right off the bat we have music. We’re going to have workshops, which is different from some markets but not all of them.  We’ll have artists there.” McCaskill details some of the upcoming events:  “We have Providence Community Acupuncture coming three times this summer. They are going to do some acupuncture on people and give out information about that. We’ll have Indy Cycle, which does electronic waste, so they’ll be there a few times to pick up old computers and other electronics and recycle them properly.” Jacob also says that they are working in partnership with North Main Street Merchant’s Association and the Summit Neighborhood Association to offer more workshops, such as composting and beekeeping.     

They also hope that this market will be unique because of the farmers involved. “I feel the farmers markets are really an opportunity to meet the people growing their food and to make a connection and create a relationship over that. And these farmers are mostly those that haven’t had that opportunity so far because the other markets are so full. We wanted to give people who might not have an opportunity to meet the farmers because there’s a line of people behind them.  Just the ability for more people to meet the people who are raising their food or raising the animals or growing the plants and vegetables,” notes Jacobs.

Rachael says, “I hope that we can enrich the lives of the community around us. Having good local food and having art available and workshops and having things that people can connect with.” Richard agrees. “The hope is to create kind of a small weekly festival featuring food, art, and music,” he says. “Really a community environment where people can come – families, young adults, seniors, really anyone – can come find vendors, farmers that fill their food needs or they can shop for art and other products of interest. They can really experience some of the culture.”

And perhaps the most important benefit: “There will be convenient parking. You can drive right up, pull in, do your shopping, cruise, maybe visit of the workshops, get in your car and head off to the next spot on your Saturday,” says Jacob.

If you’re looking for something fresh this month, come down and check out the market, which is open Saturdays from May 18-October 26,from 10am-2pm. provaltmarket.com.

 

 

 

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