On a summery Wednesday afternoon, the bright sun welcomed all to the Shady Side Academy Farmers Market. A steady stream of customers flowed into the parking lot of the Shady Side Academy (SSA) Senior School, where the market runs every Wednesday from 3-6 pm during the months of June through October. Seeing the fresh produce and handmade items at each stand, smelling the scent of bouquets of flowers floating in the air, and hearing the pleasant conversation between vendors and customers enriches the experience; and what’s more, the market is chiefly student-run.
Zac Coughlin, a rising senior at SSA, student business manager, and co-director of the SSA farmers market, explained that the market, in its sixth season, has more than doubled in size since last year. This season, twenty to twenty-five vendors from a hundred-mile radius of the area sell their wares, providing customers variety each week. Specific vendors include Pisarcik Greenhouses, Hello Hummus, Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, Sturges Orchards, and more. As well as Zac, overseeing the market are Quinn Wilojanapa, a rising senior, and Heather Raphael, a rising junior. The teens have been supervising the market each week since the beginning of the season in June. The student managers run the business aspects of the market, including reaching out to vendors, setting up, cleaning up, and managing the market’s social media. In addition, the students write a weekly newsletter which circulates to more than 200 people in the area.
A special feature of the market each week is a stand of hand-picked vegetables grown by students right on campus! The SSA Farm was established in 2012 as a small garden plot and has extended to all three SSA campuses (the Junior School, Middle School, and Senior School). Gianna Fazioli, the director of the farm, explained that the farm is primarily student driven. For example, Sameer Annamraju and William Lu, two student interns manning the farm booth, participated during the school year to work at the farm and grow the produce. While the growing season occurs mostly during the warmer months, farm work is year-round, as students handle seedlings and prep for spring and summer at the farm during the winter. In addition to cultivating and harvesting yummy produce using sustainable practices, the farm helps educate students in an interdisciplinary manner. For example, students may learn about plant biology as well as the history of Victory Gardens from World War II, explained Fazioli.
Customers at the market are able to sample veggies from the farm, which yields 500-1000 pounds of produce each season. A crisp, tangy slaw made with carrots, green beans, and kohlrabi was featured this Wednesday, accompanied by the recipe. In addition to being sold at the market, the produce is used in the SSA cafeterias to create fresh, healthy items for the lunchrooms.
Zac has loved his experience managing the SSA farmers market, as he plans to study marketing in college. Quinn remarked that the farmers market supports local, unique businesses, providing a welcoming space for growing farms to offer their goods. Heather noted another perk of working at the market: “Getting to eat lots of yummy food!” No matter what, the SSA farmers market provides a fun atmosphere to share food, meet friends, and foster memories.