CLARKS SUMMIT — Now that summer is almost here, more and more people are visiting Hillside Park, whether it be for soccer practice, fishing or walking on the boardwalk. This season, there is another reason to visit the park. People can get locally grown, organic food products once a week at The Hillside Park Farmers Market which is held from 2 to 6 p.m. every Thursday at the park’s pavilion near Eston Wilson Lake.
This market is truly farmer-run and producers only, which means the food items are locally grown and made by the vendors themselves and none of the items are bought beforehand. Nicole Weichert, who came up with the idea, is the manager of this farmers market. She and the farmers of Back Achers Farm (located in North Rome) have been going to farmers markets in the Clarks Summit area for over 10 years.
“We wanted to find a spot that would be able to accommodate more vendors, had amenities like bathrooms, and plenty of parking, and plenty of community gathering place,” Weichert said. “We decided to approach the board at Hillside Park because it checked all those things on the list and was beautiful to top it off.”
Back Achers Farm comes to the market to vend its meats, including beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. All the animals are pasture-raised and 100% grass fed at the farm in the Endless Mountains and their produce is free from any chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. Brothers Sam and Aaron Bullock run the farm with their mother Sue. They recently brought their cheviot sheep with its twin lambs for children and adults to see and pet. Back Achers Farm also has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, meaning people can order its meats and vegetables online for either either pick up or delivery.
Clodhopper Farm, located in Springville, also vends meat products at the farmers market. It specializes in pasture-raised meats, including chicken, turkey, bacon and ham and pork fat. Like Back Achers, Clodhopper Farm meats come from animals fed on all-natural grass.
“Our feed has no antibiotics,” said Pete Comly, owner of the farm.
Cloddhopper Farm just added its grass-fed beef at the market. Recently, Pete and his daughter Isabel brought and displayed their baby chicks and ducklings.
“Our first (farmers market) was 22 years ago,” said Pete. “We normally sell our food from the farm so it is good to get out.”
Tortilleria El Buen Amigo, a Mexican restaurant in Southside Scranton, brings its freshly made sauces to the market — salsas, queso, guacamole (with or without jalapenos), and tomatillo. Currently, its spiciest sauce is one made with Chile de arbol (Spanish for “tree chili”) peppers.
“We are coming up with an even spicier sauce,” said Alice Joslynn, who runs the stand with Jocelyn Valencia.
Not only do they make their own sauces, employees at El Buen Amigo also bake their own tortilla chips.
“We use fresh products daily,” said Valencia.
Coming from Montrose, Nicole Repchick offers bread samples for people to dip into homemade sauces she makes from ingredients grown at her Wyldflower Farm. Her “Breaddipper” dipping oils are good for marinating and grilling. Her “Bobcat” sauce is a spicy but all-natural hot sauce.
“So far, so good,” said Repchick said about being a vendor at the market. “The customers and vendors are very friendly. It’s a nice location. I’m sure that we will have more vendors.”
Beekeeper Brad Seward and his wife Jennifer vend their honey-related items from their Maple Hill Farm, located in Dalton. Jennifer makes the honey hive products such as beeswax candles, honey straws and lip balm called Auntie Em (named after their youngest daughter Emily).
Mary Ellen Langieri, who spins wool at Back Achers Farm, has been coming to the farmers market to demonstrate her skills. From the wool she spins, she makes hats, sweaters, gloves, and socks. She has been spinning for 37 years, having learned how to spin wool from her biology teacher’s wife when she was a student at Douglass College. She encouraged her friend Theresa Curto, of Clarks Summit, to bring her new spinning wheel to the farmers market so she can teach how to spin wool.
“I think it’s going to be a great hobby,” Curto said. “It’s relaxing. I think it’s cool to spin fleece from a sheep and make things like clothes.”
Southwest Savory Grill and Sweet Lush Cupcakery bring their food trucks to the market. Southwest Savory Grill cooks burgers, tacos, rice bowls, and loaded fries while Sweet Lush Cupcakery bakes specialty cupcakes.
Weichert credits the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board (AAJRB) for stellar support of the market by working with her every step of the way to help it grow.
“There are many groups within the park and we all help promote each other and work together as much as possible,” said Weichert. “Last year, we did a supply drive for Griffin Pond Animal Shelter with our friends at the Abington Dog Park, and we plan on organizing another one for this season.”
Weichert started this farmers market because she believes in healthy eating as well as supporting local farmers, who make all-natural, organic foods for the community to enjoy.
“Food is important,” she said. “Supporting your local economy, community building, supporting farmers, and cottage industry is as well, and that is what made me want to start a farmers market.”