The Life of a Traveling Market
As people start to pay more attention to what foods they are putting in their bodies, local farmers markets have become exceedingly popular all over the country and in our neck of the woods. Turn any corner in Pittsburgh on a Saturday in June, July, and August, and you’ll be sure to find one. Freedom Farms participates in five alone, not including our home Farmers Market on Route 8.
The traveling markets have grown to be a significant portion of sales for the farm and none of it would be possible without the fourth youngest King brother, Sam King. As the man in charge of the traveling market operation at Freedom Farms, he is at every market throughout the week, and prepares for all of them as well.
Because Freedom Farms attends a different farmer’s market each day of our work week, preparing for them is an enormous task. Not only does Sam have to make sure that he has enough produce to take, he also has to make sure his prices are comparable, he has enough helpers, he gets up early enough to pack the truck, and that he doesn’t end up packing too many fruits and veggies. Traveling markets are a delicate balance that Sam has all but mastered.
And of course, when there’s enough space, he also has to coordinate Freedom Farms famous Meat Bus. A welcome attraction at any farmers market, the Meat Bus is a full size bus that the King brothers have converted into a small, walk-in store to sell cold products such as pork, chicken, beef, hot dogs, and milk. You can also buy Freedom Farms apparel and canned goods from the Meat Bus. It’s such a large vehicle that one has to wonder who drives it around.
“I drive the Meat Bus to market,” Sam said with a smile. “It’s actually not as hard as you might think. I like driving it better than our other box trucks. It’s just a little tricky to get into places sometimes. We can’t even use certain entrances. We have to make sure we have enough room and that the entrance isn’t too steep for the bus.”
One other unique aspect of Freedom Farms traveling markets is that, unlike some other local businesses, when you buy at our traveling market, you are still buying directly from your farmers. While others may send weekend or hired help to a farmers market to sell their product for them, Freedom Farms always sends members of the family. At any given market, you could find Sam, of course, as well as John, Paul, Ben, and occasionally even Tim, Pete, or Joe. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that you can trust your source. And any of the King brothers are happy to answer questions that may come up.
Perhaps the most common question Sam receives at market is if Freedom Farms is organic or not. It’s a tough question to answer. While Freedom Farms has not invested the significant amount of money it requires to become USDA certified organic, every product at market is all-natural and grown without the aide of pesticides or antibiotics, including the meat. In fact, even if a product is labeled as USDA certified organic, non-organic materials may still make up up to five percent of the product.
“In some ways, we’re even better than certified organic.”
It’s when issues like this arise that Freedom Farms traveling markets truly stand out against the rest. Each brother has worked in the field and has had a hand in growing the produce you may be buying. Having them there and having the peace of mind that when they tell you something, you know it’s true, is something that many other markets simply can’t replicate.
Of course, some markets are better than others. Currently Freedom Farms attends a market in Peters Township, Market Square, the North Side, Bloomfield, and Aspinwall, and that’s just for this year. They’re always looking to add or subtract, depending on how well each market is doing. Several factors affect how well the farm does at a market. It could be anything from a low amount of foot traffic, to the fact that our products don’t go over well with the demographic of the area.
“Bloomfield is probably one of my favorite markets. We’re always the biggest farm here,” Sam said. “It makes my day a lot better when I put in the time and effort, and we end up making a lot of money. Not all markets are like that.”
And it is all the hard work and preparation that Sam, along with all of his brothers put into the traveling markets that lead to comments like one overheard today. As a man was checking out, he stopped briefly, surveyed the tables before him and said “I just want to tell you that your produce is stunningly beautiful.”
In that comment, is the reason Freedom Farms takes every day of our work week to travel around the Pittsburgh area and bring fresh fruits and veggies to people who can’t always make it to our home market on Route 8. Fresh, local produce should be available to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status or where you live. Of course, as a sustainable farm, they are always looking for ways to educate people on the importance of clean eating and how it’s not as hard as one may think. Just take a look at the beautiful display of produce that Sam has created, and you may convert any meat-lover to a vegetarian.