America’s most local food market opens in Boston

From fruits and vegetables, to meat and fish, to pastries and pasta, the Boston Public Market will be home to about 40 vendors

Al Rose, owner of Red Apple Farm, stands next to an old cider press. —Jean Nagy / Boston.com

“You don’t own the farm; you tend it for the next generation.’’

That’s what Al Rose’s grandfather used to say.

Now the saying is painted above the Red Apple Farm’s cinnamon cider donut counter, the first and largest station you will see—and smell—at the new Boston Public Market.

The permanent, year-round market will provide fresh, local food to consumers in Boston. Set up along the city’s Kennedy Greenway, the market will be home to about 40 vendors who will sell fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, pastries, breads and sweets—all grown, caught or produced in New England.

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Story continues after gallery: The Boston Public Market opening

Most major cities either have large public markets: Detroit’s Eastern Market, San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, or Portland, Oregon’s James Beard Public Market, scheduled to open in 2018. While these markets are all champions of local food and farmers, none have taken their sourcing rules quite as far as Boston’s new market, Market Manager Tiffini Emig said. In Boston, all the goods sold from the market must come from or be produced in the surrounding area.

Built with about $13 million in public and private financing, the market’s location is part of Boston’s emerging Market District, along with the Haymarket open-air fruit and vegetable market, and the historic Faneuil Hall. Boston Public Market will specialize in locally grown items only, whereas Haymarket focuses on wholesale produce from around the world. Faneuil Hall Marketplace primarily focuses on prepared foods.

“Our market vendors will only be able to sell things that are locally grown. We will never have some of the things that Haymarket has, things like lemons, limes, pineapples.’’ Emig said. “We hope that if people come here to buy fish, they will go there to buy their lemons. If they go there to buy olive oil, they will come here to buy a fresh loaf of local bread.’’

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Diversity also encompasses the market’s mission to provide local food for all, regardless of economic background.

All vendors will accept the state’s food stamp debit card for all eligible market products. Vendors were asked to find ways to sell their high-end products at lower prices to make the goods attainable for low-income shoppers.

For Nella Pasta, that means selling mis-shapen pasta at a reduced rate. For Q’s Nuts, that means providing the option to buy specialty nuts by the dollar rather than pound. For most farmers, it means selling “seconds,’’ or produce slightly bruised or oddly shaped, at a lower price.

The market will also partner with local food rescue organizations, like The Greater Boston Food Bank and Lovin’ Spoonfuls. At the end of the day vendors will have the option to donate unsold leftovers to these organizations.

Food scraps and other compostable material not donated from market vendors will be composted through CERO, a Boston worker-owned cooperative using the waste to create rich soil for growing food. Emig said they are working with CERO to someday be able to sell the soil at the market.

Boston Public Market Kitchen is another program that is a part of the market, offering culinary, health and wellness classes, events, tours and workshops.

But for most vendors and community members involved in the project, like Andy Pollack of Silverbrook Farm, they are excited to spark a conversation about local food.

Rachel Carlson picks vegetables from Stillman’s Farm. —Jean Nagy / Boston.com

“Any market is an opportunity to explain food policy, agriculture, fair wages, and sustainability. This spinach is $3, and if you are here I can explain why, and that’s because we pay the living wage of an average of $12 at our farm. It’s about being sustainable for the land, the food, and the people,’’ Pollack said.

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Rose, however, said he is most excited for the community being built: between the vendors, the consumers, and the city.

“I see us as being part of the fabric and tapestry of Boston for the future,’’ he said. “People have this need to connect and we are going to be connecting with them on so many levels. We are going to be part of peoples’ lives. My goal is to bring the farm to the heart of the city, but my overall goal is to be in the hearts of the city.’’

The Boston Public Market will be open Wednesdays through Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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