Shoppers used to picking up fresh veggies at the Brookline Farmers’ Market are now being asked to leave some cabbage instead.
Hard hit by the pandemic, the market is turning to the community for help with a GoFundMe to offset increased costs ahead of its upcoming season, which begins June 3.
“Many market attendees mistakenly assume that the market is run, and paid for, by the town of Brookline. The market is in fact an independent organization,” explained Co-Director Abe Faber. “We raise our income from our vendors through stall fees, and purposefully set these fees at a rate that just covers our expenses.”
When the pandemic forced the Brookline Farmers’ Market to increase social distancing last year, the market had to temporarily cut a third of its regular vendors to create enough space, sacrificing revenue in the process, Faber explained.
“As the stewards of this beloved institution, we needed to find a way to continue operating, because we knew we could bring fresh, local, nutritious food to the public in an outdoor space that was as safe as, or safer than, indoor supermarkets,” he said. “We are grateful to the Brookline Health Department for working with us to devise a plan to keep the market open.”
Still, the market’s 42nd consecutive season last year was tough, requiring a reorganized layout and investment in touchless payment options, hands-off produce browsing, and sanitizing and disinfecting protocols.
The upcoming season will include most of the same COVID-19 safety protocols as last year in order to reduce risk as much as possible, according to Faber.
This year is the first time the market is fundraising to cover its operating expenses, he said. The money raised will be used to cover costs including rental fees for the town’s parking lot, police details, Port-a-Potty rentals, modest pay for the market manager and SNAP associate, as well as various supplies – “which lately include lots and lots of hand sanitizer,” Faber said.
The vendors are already facing a “significant” increase in fees; without the GoFundMe campaign to help close the gap, vendors would have to pay even more, he said.
“Some of them simply can’t afford it, as many of them have already been squeezed by the pandemic,” Faber said. “What truly makes the market special is our vendors, and this is the community’s chance to support not just the market, but to directly support the farmers that have been putting in so much work to bring you the fruits of their labor.”
As of Monday afternoon, about a week and a half since the GoFundMe campaign launched, the market had surpassed its initial $7,500 fundraising goal. Due to additional unexpected expenses, the market is now reaching toward a $9,500
Faber described the community’s quick response as “incredibly gratifying and heartwarming to see,” and added that he is looking forward to seeing the market’s farmers and food producers come June.
“We love to see the people behind the food, because they are all extraordinary individuals with whom we have deep connections,” he said.
He and his fellow organizers also look forward to the fresh foods on sale at the market – Faber listed everything from ripe, just-picked produce to handcrafted cheeses, aromatic smoked fish, baked goods, craft kombucha and small batch fruit ice-pops.
“Developing relationships with the people who grow and make your food takes time but is worth the effort,” he said. “As we like to say, ‘Eat less from a box and more from the earth!’”
The Brookline Farmers’ Market GoFundMe is available online at https://gofund.me/095d2859.