The fledgling farmer’s market on West Broadway is a very nice start, but let’s face reality: it is time to grow and change. Before the start of spring, South Bostonians should mobilize to support the second stage of a South Boston Farmer’s Market, in preparation for a new future. When we consider the number of viable future locations in South Boston, with all the projects proposed in real estate and development, the choice initially looks too complex to make a simple healthy move. But why should we move the market to prepare for a better future?
The big reasons for advocating this new beginning for a larger farmer’s market in a different location are pretty clear. First: the current market is too small to support more vendors that would provide increased choices for consumers. Secondly, the current location is in the middle of a smog fest created by car and bus traffic, and has only narrow egress to the sidewalk. This is a rather unhealthy place to park organic foods and marketable products. More than a few times this writer has ducked away from patronizing the market because of the congestion. Third: even given some significant plantings and expanded encroachment on the adjacent parking lot, it simply isn’t an attractive enough location to expand and develop.
The idea of a nicer location has been floated a few times publicly as something “way down the road” when the market takes hold. The historical connection of farmer’s markets in urban areas located near parks with green grass, trees, and fresh air is the primary common sense reason for adopting the concept of a move. A simple move of the current vendors from West Broadway to the sidewalks fronting the Medal of Honor Park on East Broadway would create a fine family friendly setting for vendors to sell fresh fruits and vegetables. The residential neighborhood surrounding this park is dense with many residents who use the park regularly for recreation. The T access is basically the same, and despite No Change Minion objections, this is a no brainer.
More importantly, this is a relatively effortless way to set the stage for a future larger farmer’s market in South Boston that would leverage our ideal ship to shore location for receiving fresh foods from around the nation and the world. As readers of SBO are aware, the area beyond the Medal of Honor Park which houses the defunct Edison power plant is being planned as a public /private community. Its deadlines are closing in, as the planners have been seeking an identity to frame the project to South Boston. In the quest to seal the public confidence they moved in the right direction of advocating more open green space. Yes, indeed: the perfect place for a future farmer’s market!
We understand that those plans are not yet directly tied to a South Boston Farmer’s Market, but humbly submit the time to consider such a use for green space is now. South Boston is perfectly poised in a number of areas for potential future market sites: from Washington Village to sites near Carson Beach, and the new village replacing the Mary Ellen McCormack, should the power plant concept not take hold. By allowing the f ledgling stalls we have to find a nicer location and expand a little, South Boston can demonstrate its potential for bringing a genuine market into fruition. This is something older South Bostonians and new residents alike should support.
This kind of Public Market is often not done well for the average consumer in Boston. The over-priced market near Haymarket is not a genuine farmer’s market because the average citizen cannot afford to shop there regularly, and right now plans are being made to take what was left of Haymarket away from its location. Large Public Markets in cities like Seattle, Baltimore, and Cleveland have had a long history and dedicated following because citizens can afford them. This is what the future South Boston should provide. For once we should take our working class values that are consistently given lip service, and turn them into a real plan. The intermediate step to gaining support for such a community resource is to engage the vendors with the prospect of creating a truly welcoming environment.
The permitting for this small change surely cannot be so difficult to create. As the residents of the city were the ones who paid for the renovation of Medal of Honor Park, the sidewalks there are technically not any more sacrosanct than sidewalks on West Broadway. Market day reserved parking for their vans, would hardly exceed ten spaces. By moving the f ledgling market closer to the waterfront in an environment that is family friendly, South Boston would be demonstrating that it understands urban planning in dense communities. The vendors currently associated with the market will perhaps increase in numbers slightly, allowing them to be open for weekends, offer more variety, and give everyone an opportunity to get a feel for what the future might bring.
Finally, the importance of seeking out this strategic move is to send a clear message to big developers about the need for access to more affordable high quality food, as they create more housing. We don’t need another over priced food court like Eataly at the Prudential. South Bostonians who understand this would create a focus for future green space will really like this idea. We implore them to contact their representatives to advocate for a cleaner, nicer, fresh air environment for our fledgling market this season. This doesn’t take an act of Congress, but merely a little imagination, and public will to shape a neighborhood need for a better community based future in South Boston.