The SteelStacks Farmers Market debuted Tuesday at PNC Plaza for a few hundred visitors on a sunsplashed afternoon in the shadow of the old Bethlehem Steel blast furnace.
At least 30 vendors were on hand to sell a wide variety of items including artisan breads, gourmet desserts, all-natural dog biscuits, locally raised meats, books, hand-carved birdhouses, handmade salsa, plants, flowers and of course, locally grown fruits and vegetables – though, this early in the season, in limited supply.
The market is the latest in a string of new events to take shape at the . An Arts & Antiques Market at the Air Products Town Square, directly in front of the recently opened , is scheduled to open on Saturday.
At an opening ceremony, which featured a ribbon cutting by Mrs. Pennsylvania, Kate Mack of Salisbury Township, and a traditional blessing by Msgr. Robert Biszek of , ArtsQuest founder and President Jeffrey Parks noted that the market opening marks a “full circle” return to the land’s roots.
Until they divested themselves of 1,300 acres along the Lehigh River in 1848, the Moravians of Bethlehem farmed that area. Samuel Wetherill built a zinc oxide producing plant at the site in 1852, propelling the Southside into the industrial era.
The ceremony also marked the offical opening of , the outdoor festival space that will be the new home of Musikfest’s biggest outdoor stage. Peter Danchak, regional president of PNC Bank for Northeast Pennsylvania, was also on hand to mark the occasion.
“The SteelStacks Farmers Market is designed to help promote sustainability, support our local growers and contribute to the health and well-being of our community,” Parks said.
“Purchasing and eating fresh local foods from a farmers market not only contributes to healthy living and better nutrition, it also has a positive impact on the region’s economy because it supports jobs and commerce for area farmers and farms.”
Mayor John Callahan said the market should also be a boost for South Bethlehem businesses, spotlighting a study that showed that 60 percent of people who buy at farmers markets also use other local shops.
The market will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Nov. 8. Every week, it will have 30 vendors selling locally produced foods. The market is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.”
The market will also feature music and a variety of demonstrations built around a theme. This month, the theme is “Physical Fitness and Sports.”
Regular cooking demonstrations will also be featured. John Holderbach, ArtsQuest’s executive chef, will hold healthy cooking demonstrations on the second Tuesday of every month.
The market is a participant in the Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides coupons to low-income women who are pregnant, breast feeding or caring for children up to age 5. Coupons can be used to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs at farmers markets.
The market is also equipped with Electronic Benefits Transfer, which allows participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to authorize transfer of their government benefits to a retailer to pay for fresh foods.