Boston to Launch the Nation’s First 'All-Local' Public Market | Civil Eats

Boston to Launch the Nation’s First ‘All-Local’ Public Market

Almost everything sold at the new Boston Public Market will be produced or originate in New England.

Outdoor Rendering of MarketThe new public market opening this summer in Boston will never sell a banana or an avocado. In the winter and spring, when there are fewer vegetables in the fields, there will be fewer vegetables in the market’s stalls. And if local fishermen can’t catch it, it won’t be on offer.

The Boston Public Market will be home to about 40 vendors, who will sell fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, and honey—all grown, caught or produced in New England.

Most major cities either have large public markets these days or have one in works — think 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, however, none have taken their sourcing rules quite as far.

Boston’s market will be the first permanent, year-round market in the country to require its products—not just its proprietors—to be all-local, a model that is both exciting and risky, said Elizabeth Morningstar, chief executive of the Boston Public Market Association, the nonprofit that will operate the new enterprise.

“Do I know if it’s going to succeed? I don’t,” Morningstar said. “Do I think it’s the right thing to do? One hundred percent.”

The goals behind the ambitious rules are the same as those driving the burgeoning local food movement: boost economic development, help people eat healthier, reduce carbon emissions from long-haul transportation, and encourage consumers to reconnect with the land where their food is grown.

The state of Massachusetts is paying for half of the estimated $13 million it will cost to get the market up and running. The environmental nonprofit The Conservation Fund has given the project a $3 million line of credit; private and foundation donations make up the rest of the budget.

photo 2 (1)The building is still a work in progress. Men and women in hard hats walk the raw concrete floors where shoppers will meander come summer. Visible ducts and wires run along the ceiling and a stack of pipes obscures a wall that will be covered in a cascade of flowers. The banks of floor-to-ceiling windows that line the front of the building are covered in colorful posters that promote the coming market and prevent passers-by from peering in at the unfinished space.

As the market nears completion, however, questions remain about its pioneering local-only mandate. Will the farms of highly seasonal New England have anything to sell in winter? Will consumers find the selection too limited?

Morningstar has conquered any doubts she once had about supply. More than 300 potential vendors–the vast majority from Massachusetts–have expressed interest in setting up shop in the market, she said. Applicants must submit a rigorous business plan guaranteeing their ability to provide enough product all year. “Even the small businesses have been very diligent about their supply model,” Morningstar said.

The growers selling fruits and vegetables have all found ways to extend their offerings through the colder, less fertile months. For instance, Corner Stalk Farm grows greens in converted shipping containers all year. Red Apple Farm will supplement its fruit with cider and treats like doughnuts. Other farms plan to offer items that will store well throughout the winter like root vegetables and winter squash. The first round of vendors also includes businesses selling meat, cheese, milk, ice cream, honey, wine, smoked fish, and greenhouse-grown flowers.

Not every ingredient will come from New England–market rules allow prepared foods to use components from outside the region, though the final product must be produced locally. The market will also sell chocolate and seasoned nuts grown out of New England, but processed in neighboring Somerville. And it will have a coffee vendor and some smoothies for sale there that will contain coconut.

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The question of demand is not as clearly resolved, but there is every reason for optimism.

“Local” continues to be one of the most commercially appealing words in the food business, said Rachel Greenberger, director of food entrepreneurship program Food Sol at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachussets. Though the market will not have the one-stop convenience of a traditional supermarket, Morningstar points to data that indicate most shoppers already make multiple stops to buy all of the groceries they want.

Still, consumer education will be essential if the market is to succeed, said Gregory Watson, who was commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources when the plans for the market were taking shape.

“You want to manage those customer expectations right up front, so [they] don’t come in expecting tropical fruit,” he said.

Several vendors will include educational pieces in their own stalls, Morningstar said. An active beehive will buzz behind plexiglass at the booth of the Boston Honey Company of Holliston and Taza Chocolate of Somerville will have a traditional chocolate grinding stone on display.

In the market’s kitchen, a versatile space in the corner of the facility, visitors will be able to sample produce or practice their stir-fry technique in hands-on cooking classes. Area conservation group the Trustees of Reservations will coordinate the programming.

“This is definitely a radical concept, so the education becomes all the more important,” said Mimi Hall, market programming director for the Trustees of Reservations.

Though a market is always a tourist draw, planners are shaping the Boston facility to serve residents first and foremost, Morningstar said. Most vendors will serve some prepared food options, but the only seating will be eight small tables in the center of the space. The goal is not to become a dining destination, but to stay focused on the needs of local shoppers looking for dinner ingredients, she said

To make sure the market is an option for all residents regardless of income, all vendors are required to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, (AKA food stamps). Classes will also be priced to make them affordable to a wide range of participants, Hall said. One-third of the events will be free, she said, and another third will cost less than $20.

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“We’re making sure people of all different backgrounds and all different means get connected to the land,” Hall said.

If the market succeeds, it could be an important catalyst for growth in the local food economy in New England, several people said. Having a guaranteed year-round outlet could encourage farmers to look at boosting greenhouse production, for instance, said Watson.

The market is also an important step in building needed local food infrastructure, Greenberger said. And for Morningstar, the market will help both grow and satisfy Boston’s corps of local food devotees.

“Shopping in a public market is a value statement,” she said. “People go because they like what it says about them and about the community.”

Sarah Shemkus is a freelance reporter and editor who writes about business, technology, food and the places where they all meet. Her work as appeared in The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Slate, and other fine publications. Her passions include farmers markets, the ocean, data, sharp cheddar cheese, mystery novels, National Public Radio, punctuality, travel, and proper grammar. Follow Sarah on Twitter @shemkus. Read more >

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  1. Kristin
    This is a great initiative, but I question whether it can really claim to be the first such market. The Trenton Farmers Market in New Jersey has been around since around 1900, and at its current location - a covered market open year-round - since 1939. It is a true farmers market in that the farmers who participate are only allowed to sell produce grown or other products made on their own farms. At least one of the auxiliary vendors sells products (like bananas) that are from out of the area, but the vast majority of products available at the market are local. While Boston's effort is laudable, I think it needs to be clear that this is nothing new - rather, it is a return to the way everyone shopped more than half a century ago.
  2. Jessica
    There is some contradictory visioning here, for example, the market will not have bananas and avocados, but will have chocolate (Taza) and coffee which are 100% not locally grown. What about avocados and bananas that are ethically sourced from small scale farmers and from a local company? Food for thought! Regardless, the market is a great vision. Keep up the great work.
  3. Harrison Fox
    This actually is scary news to me. The Haymarket farmers market is one of the best things Boston offers. This will most likely push those guys out and no longer will be able provide reasonably priced produce. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and worked on local farms throughout my childhood so I understand the importance of supporting your local farmers. However by pushing out the produce from other countries that I get every Thursday/Friday at Haymarket Farmers market this place will be able to charge what they want. Unless somehow they let the farmers market still take place (I highly doubt) I have a feeling I won't be able to even afford this place!
  4. Carol
    Bravo!! This state has been a leader in so many areas. We have the best hospitals, some of the best colleges it is time for us to be stepping in the local products market. I have heard for years about cities who have invested areas of their downtown where there would be fruit trees planted so if someone was hungry they could just pick and eat an apple or pear or what ever was there. I always thought what a wonderful idea. The other thing that I have read about is the use of hydroponic gardens to locally grow things that may be out of season. They do that in parts of Russia where the growing season is short. But with a live bee hive pollination would be possible. Anyway I think what your doing is wonderful!!
  5. Lisa Meuse
    My mother grew up in Boston and then moved out to Orange when I was a baby. I am a current employee of the Red Apple Farm in Philipston and am so proud of everyone involved at the farm for making this happen. My city family will now be able to enjoy the labor of my "farmily." Boston is about to see just how lucky they are.
  6. Vancouver,'s market is its most abiding memory.
    A Valhalla garden of Eden.
  7. Jack
    Why is the state funding this? This is a private thing and should stay that way.
  8. Mary
    Hi, Harrison - You will be happy to know that the Haymarket pushcarts will remain. The public market and pushcarts cater to different shoppers/budgets.
  9. Zhikes
    Neat can't wait till mid July. Found this link has a short video on market:
  10. Steve Cybulski
    what is the radius of "local" in miles from Boston? I make award winning mustard's in small batches by hand in New Hampshire...
  11. Very excited to see this happen! Going to Eastern Market in Detroit is always so much fun! They have local vendors, outdoor music, and great people. Hope Boston adds a beer garden!
  12. Abiding memory of Vancouvers's food market
    a Valhalla garden of Eden .
    Space to walk about ! an edible art .
  13. Great idea! Yes, consumer education and incentives times are key. I hope you succeed. This could spur many other progressive programs.
  14. Brian Palmer
    Exciting news! Happy to hear Morningstar and others are taking the kind of risks necessary for a sustainable future. Can't wait to check get some local treats.
  15. Manlio
  16. Nikai
    I love this!
  17. The West Chester Growers' Market in Chester County, PA has been operating this way since it began in 1995, as has the Emmaus Farmers' Market in Lehigh County, PA, since 2004.

    I applaud Boston's move to start a producer-only market, but unless there's a key bit of information missing from this article, they cannot claim to be the first in the country with real producer-only rules.
  18. dianne cacciolfi
    This is awesome. I pray it will be a success. We always watch Zimmerman on TV and he is always visiting open markets around the world. They look so inviting and we always say boy I wish we had one around are area. Cannot wait for it to be open. Good luck to all of you,
  19. Judith Fox
    I am very excited to have Local open while at the same time the support of our local vendors is a major focus
    I hope everyone will support Local!!!
  20. Susan Sheldon
    Bravo! However, All Things Local has been operating in Amherst, MA. for about 2 years. They only sell locally produced foods and goods all year. Here in the Pioneer Valley, we are blessed with great farms and customers. It was here that the Buy Local movement was started by CISA.
  21. Mike D
    @Harrison Fox, Haymarket is certainly not a FARMER'S market. I love Haymarket for the select purchase from time to time, but they are primarily reselling food that is stale, often moldy, has gone through multiple temperature changes and unsanitary storage, etc... many restaurants shop there. I think it's an OK place to buy vegetables, but fruit is almost never a good decision. I think this new market will cater to a slightly different buyer, and will without question be higher quality food. Sure, there will be some overlap as there is in any industry when a new player emerges, but I think it's a positive development, all around. I'm very much looking forward to the optionality!
  22. Deniz Ozan-George
    This is a fantastic idea and I look forward to shopping there when it opens. It might be a great idea to also considerer delivery through Instacart or some other simalar service---create jobs for the shoppers and ensure that products are available to thouse that can't make it to the actual market.
  23. Barbara
    Nashville, TN. had a thriving and wonderful farmer's market from a mostly local produce market. All vendors are local farmers who were, until this year, allowed to supplement a percentage of their sales with produce such as oranges, bananas, etc. The market was always packed. This year supplemental produce has been banned and the market is a ghost town. Farmers can't afford to be part of the market anymore and are the big losers in what has been a misguided effort to "go local". It has been a big fail and I hope Boston's market organizers take note of this cautionary tale.
  24. Daniel
    so you want to spend 13million dollarsof the states money on somethat you dont think will succeed? Imagine if you put that money towards school systems
  25. Linda
    What a waste of taxpayer's $13 million. We are more healthy being able to eat a well balanced diet every day of the year because of food available from all over the world. It is also more cost effective. Many whose taxes support this will not be able to use it. It only serves Boston.. There is more to the state than Boston.
  26. Mel Philbrook
    I think it is going to be a huge mistake to include only New England. If a shopper can not come down and purchase the majority of what they need for that special dinner why bother. I think the market should have been grown or produced in America. I mean really how much Maple Syrup can one person use
  27. patti cassidy
    Fascinating. Can't wait. But WHERE, please, is it????
  28. mickey Geller
    Where will it be located?
    • Twilight Greenaway
      Locations details are available in the link at the top of the story:
  29. D. Robinson
    Something pretty important seems to be missing from the story. Where is it located?
  30. Maria church
  31. Beth
    Great news for Boston. This will help create another wonderful community gathering place on a weekly basis.
    I look forward to visiting this market place.
  32. Stephen
    It's interesting that you can write a long and comprehensive article like this and never once mention the address, or even the neighborhood, of the future market.
  33. Laura LeClair
    Amherst, MA already has one of these! All Things Local. Open more than a year. It is fantastic.
  34. Fabulous! I'm proud of Boston for being such a forerunner. Local food is what will save the food industry, not GMO's, and help control climate change. Can't wait to shop there!!
  35. tchioo
    splendid !!
  36. steve asaro
    yes! about time. i love this idea, i will definatly be a customer
  37. aldo dilemme
    great idea...
    where is it going to be?
    when will it open?
  38. Hector Torres
    Sounds self centered, but environmentally sound. The philosophy of eating local makes sense from any point of view, specially for health sake and a stimulus to local growers and the local economy. But I wish if were a bit less limited and allow for a small percentage of fair trade imported produce. May also include a large section of organic produce, and non to GMO, to help restore the health of the land also.
  39. Judy
    Now, if we can just get all the local farmers to grow organically, this place would be heaven!
    Thanks for the good work, and great idea!
  40. Jeremy Smith
    I a glad to see this is happening, but I do not think that the claim made in the headline is appropriate. Local Roots, in Wooster, Ohio is open year-round, is on a similar vendor model, and maintains approximately the same standards for "local" as this public market. They have been open since January, 2010. Please be more thorough with your research in the future.
  41. Hari Arisetty
    The economics don't make sense, 13 Million dollars to get the market up and running, for 40 vendors? Why not just give each vendor $300,000 and let them find their own space? The state would actually save money in that scenario.
  42. This is great. We started a year-round every-day market here in Michigan and we had a full produce section all winter. Customers learn about seasonality and accept that some things are available for short periods - asparagus right now, for example. And the farms have an incentive to grow things in winter in their hoophouses.
  43. Beth
  44. cathy bullard
    Portland, Maine had a lovely Public Market, but it bellied up after several years & many attempts to drum up more business.
  45. It should be GMO free, truth in labeling, and organic as well. If not, then it is a waste of time to go there.
  46. While I'm delighted that Boston will have an "all local" farmers market, I don't think it is the first in the nation! We started a cooperatively managed farmer and craft market in Amherst, Massachusetts last year called All Things Local Cooperative Market. It is much smaller but we are proud of our little market. See:
  47. Our farm is a member of the Ithaca Farmers Market in Ithaca, NY. Our market is year-round (outdoors April thru December, indoors Jan thru March). ALL produce must be grown on premises within a 30 mile radius of our Market. This market has a world class reputation, a steady stream of local shoppers, plus tourists visiting the colleges and natural beauty. This market has been going strong for 40+ years, and is enormously popular. You will succeed! The people want local! If you let in a few prepared food vendors, that will sweeten the customer pot.
  48. For a price tag far less than 13 million - our local market will be up and running in July (2015) in Woodhull, Illinois. The Butter Churn is a fresh food market offering only locally grown and produced food. While validating to know that other places are considering doing something like this, it's troubling to read that they are laying claim to being the first and only. That is just simply not true.
  49. Rosemarie O'Brie
    How will this affect the current vendors at Haymarket.
  50. Karen
    I have been watching and waiting for this Indoor Boston Market. When visiting Italy, one of the many outstanding features is the indoor markets. Everything local and everything so fresh. All of the restaurants I visited, did not have to overuse seasonings and sauces because the freshness of the food spoke load and clear. Great first step to better health
  51. Christine Horn
    I can't wait to visit when it opens!!
  52. Catherine Soronen dunne
    I think this is great.
    We should start taking care of our own.
    So much for the Global Economy…
    We trusted our Government when they told us we didn't want to Farm anymore…
    We trusted our government when they told us we didn't want to manufacture anymore…
    So now what are we doing…
    I would rather spend my money on Goods and/or Services Produced by my neighbor even if it costs more because that's how we keep a Working Middle Class...
  53. Mary Jo Pouliot
    Can't wait to come buy!
  54. Jean McCafferty
    This is such a thrill to read about after all of the negative, frightening stuff in the news! Can't wait to come and support such a wonderful effort!
  55. Nicola Meeke
    Where is the market located??
  56. Awesome! I love seeing things like this! Way to go Boston! As a former New England gal now living in SC, this is inspiring.
  57. Yes I like this because I grew up with the B& A Flee market. Then the big box stores came. Now the above sounds like our green markets that I have sold Vermicastings and worm tea at. I am starting a Aquaponics Farm that I can produce vegetables year round here in Florida. You to could produce organic vegetables using Aquaponics like myself. You can do this to contact me. 75,000 to 300,000 lbs of vegetables will go a long way, but you have to start. At one dollar a pound it cost less to get started than you make in a year.

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