Future of Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market in doubt

Future of Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market in doubt

PAWTUCKET – As Farm Fresh Rhode Island continues construction on its new food hub in Providence, the future of the Wintertime Farmers Market it organizes at the Hope Artiste Village is less than certain.

Farm Fresh, currently located at Hope Artiste, 1005 Main St. in Pawtucket, will be moving its operations out of the city once construction is complete on its new food hub in the Valley neighborhood in Providence.

Rebecca Seggel, communications director for Farm Fresh, told The Breeze that the Wintertime Farmers Market, which features more than 85 vendors including farmers, fishers, and food producers, will run this season through April 25 and for a full season in winter 2020-2021 at Hope Artiste.

The nonprofit’s Harvest Kitchen, a culinary job training program for teens ages 16-19 involved with the R.I. Department of Children, Youth, and Families, will remain where it is on Bayley Street in Pawtucket.

“We have a long history in Pawtucket, and will continue to play a vibrant role in the community here, through our Harvest Kitchen local foods cafe in downtown Pawtucket, as well as a Pawtucket-based outdoor farmers market in summertime,” Seggel said.

Construction on the 60,000-square-foot food hub on Kinsley Avenue is expected to be complete this fall, according to the nonprofit’s website.

Michael Gazdacko, director of development and operations at Urban Smart Growth, property manager for Hope Artiste, said owners are trying to find a way to keep Farm Fresh involved with a farmers market at the mill complex, but as of now that’s “still up in the air.”

“Of course we would love Farm Fresh be the people who organize that (market) in the future,” he said. If they aren’t, he said he expects a similarly designed market to continue in the space because “it’s something that people have come to know and really enjoy.”

The market runs on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from November through April.

Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien, told The Breeze Monday that the city is aware of the new food hub being built in Providence but not aware of plans to relocate the Wintertime Farmers Market.

“Farm Fresh continues to be a valued community partner not only through the winter farmers market but also the Harvest Kitchen facility in downtown Pawtucket, and various summer market locations,” he said. “We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Farm Fresh in support of their mission to expand access to local, healthy, and affordable food for our residents.”

Seggel said that Hope Artiste Village has been a great home for the nonprofit, including allowing it to expand its operations and develop and grow new programs “that have connected more eaters to more farmers, and ... greatly strengthened the farm to table movement in our region.”

That growth combined with a realization that the organization’s operations were becoming disruptive to the residential neighborhood that surrounds Hope Artiste led to the decision to move, she said.

Gazdacko said members of Farm Fresh have kept Hope Artiste in the loop on their intentions for several years.

No matter what happens, “we wish them the best of luck,” he said. “We’ve had a great partnership with them. … There’s no animosity between the two organizations.”

While he would “prefer that they stay,” he said he understands that the move is “for the growth of their business. … I think it’s a great thing. They’ve done amazing work for the local food economy in Rhode Island.We love being a part of their growth story.”

Half of the new food hub will encompass Farm Fresh’s programs and operations, including a year-round farmers market, while the rest will be leased to food-related and farm-related small businesses, according to its website.

Farm Fresh, whose mission is “to grow a local food system that values the environment, health, and quality of life of the farmers and eaters in our region,” purchased the 3.2 acre property in 2017, according to its website, and began construction on the project in August 2019.