Q & A: Lisa Kerschner
● By J. Chambless
The West Chester Growers Market
was established in 1995, and was Chester County's original
producer-only market. North Star Orchard was one of the participants
during the first year that the West Chester Growers Market opened,
and continues to be an active and enthusiastic vendor at the market.
West Chester & Chadds Ford Life caught up with Lisa Kershner, who
owns North Star Orchard with her husband, Ike, to talk about what
keeps vendors and customers coming back season after season, and what
is in store at the West Chester Growers Market this fall.
Q: The West Chester Growers Market
(WCGM) was established in 1995 and is Chester County's original
producer-only market. Growers markets have become very popular over
the years, of course, especially here in Chester County. What are
some of the benefits for families who shop at the West Chester
A: In addition to an excellent selection of produce, meats, baked goods, etc., one major benefit of the market is knowing that it IS producer-only. There are a lot of markets out there, but they're not always as strict with the source of the products as we are here. At WCGM, every item for sale was either grown or made by the person selling it. So not only are things very local and very fresh, but customers also have the opportunity to ask questions of the vendors about the products and their farms. Most of the vendors are happy to answer questions and give suggestions for food preparation, especially for lesser-known items like celeriac, bitter melon, unique varieties of mushrooms, kohrabi, Asian pears, and other products which customers don't always have access to or know how to use. Discovering new favorite foods and the connections between farms and families are two great benefits of the WCGM.
Q: Many of the vendors come back season
after season. How long has North Star Orchard been involved with the
West Chester Growers Market?
A: We've been involved in the market since its first year in 1995. Back then, since there were no producer-only markets around, not only did customers have to learn about this type of market, but most farmers had to do some learning as well. Since then, the market has grown greatly both in the number of vendors and customers and types of products offered. It has been an amazing 21 seasons with the market so far, and we're looking forward to the next 21!
Q: As a vendor, what do you like about
this opportunity to bring your products to the growers market?
A: For us, it's all about flavor and connections. Enjoying good food is one of the great pleasures in life, as are great interpersonal connections. At the market, we and the market customers enjoy both of those. We may start out connecting over the food, but soon we're also connecting as friends...sharing stories as our children grow and lives change, and saying heartfelt goodbyes when people move.
The community aspect of the market is one which is invaluable to all involved. None of us go to the grocery store for that type of connection. But at the market, we can connect with farmers, customers, and friends over common interests in food and societal issues.
I am reminded of the week after 9/11 in 2001 when we vendors had some concern about how the market might go, considering the tragedy which unfolded a few days earlier. Although it was certainly a more subdued day that first Saturday after 9/11, we did see an enormous number of customers stop by—many more than we expected. For many, it was a chance to meet up with friends to share stories, mourn losses, and help each other through. Again, a priceless benefit to the community aspect of our market.
Q: Local artisans bring their freshly
made cheeses, salsas, sauces, pies, jams, pasta, honey, and breads to
market. Can you talk a little bit about the diversity of products
that can be found in the West Chester Growers Market?
A: The diversity of products like you mentioned are a direct benefit from the fact that customers want to buy directly from producers. When the market first started, there were absolutely fewer small farms in the area than there are now, and there were hardly any artisanal producers of things like cheeses and spreads, much less the truly unique types of produce we have at the market now. The number of small farms and businesses which have started over the past 15 years or so can be directly attributed to markets like WCGM and the interest in local foods. Continued support of markets, CSAs, and buying local will encourage even more choices and opportunities.
Q: What products will be popular at the
growers market this fall?
A: There is a lot to enjoy at the market in fall! Some people think things start slowing down by September, but that just isn't so. There is a lot of wonderful produce in fall, including greens, root crops (like potatoes, carrots, and beets), various squashes, brassicas (like broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesco), a wide variety of mushrooms, Asian pears, apples in an abundance of varieties, and more. Continuing through fall and winter are cow, sheep, and goat-based cheese, meats of all kinds, eggs, and plenty of baked goods (both artisanal-style breads and pastries and pies). Complimentary products such as spreads, salsas, wine, tea, locally-roasted coffee, and handcrafted soaps (to clean up with!) ensure a well-rounded selection of items all through the year, winter included!
Q: What are the hours that the market
A: The market is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. between the first Saturday in May and the end of December. In the winter and early spring months of January through April, the market is open from 10 a.m. to noon every first and third Saturday of the month.
Q: Where can people get more
information about what's fresh at the West Chester Growers Market?
A: The market has excellent updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and puts out an email newsletter every week which provides more details about market events, what the farmers are bringing each week, and vendor spotlight articles, so customers can learn more about each vendor. Please visit the market website, www.westchestergrowersmarket.com, to learn more about the market, join the newsletter or connect with social media.