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In their inaugural season, pop-up farmers markets serve WIC clients in rural western Pennsylvania

J. Scott Applewhite
To supply Adagio Health's pop-up farmers markets, employees pick up produce from farms in Armstrong, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Indiana, and Lawrence counties. The program runs daily through the end of August.

Families enrolled in the federal Women, Infants, and Children program can access pop-up farmers markets at Adagio Health’s five western Pennsylvania WIC offices this summer. The health and social services provider runs the stations daily in partnership with farms throughout the region.

WIC serves low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers for up to one year postpartum and children under age 5.

Alicia Schisler, Chief of External Affairs at Adagio, said the pop-up markets make it easier for the nonprofit’s mostly rural clients to take advantage of WIC’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program. She said the program provides a $24 supplement per eligible family member to spend on farmers market purchases.

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Before Adagio launched its pop-up initiative, “folks might not even have taken the checks because they said, ‘No, I'm not going to visit a local farmer's market. I don't have time, or I don't have transportation,'" she said.

“Now, they can avail themselves of that very fresh, right-from-the-farm farmer's market produce because we have the kiosks set up at the work office.”

An estimated 50 families visit the pop-up sites weekly across Adagio’s locations in Butler, Indiana, Kittanning, Monaca, and New Castle. Like WIC clients, senior citizens can use Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks as payment. Others in the community are also welcome to make purchases with cash.

“We have had everything from apples to asparagus, onions, bok choy, even some trendier vegetables,” said Adagio’s Senior Director of Nutrition Services, Britney Zwergel. “There was a green plum that was at our Armstrong [County] office [in Kittanning], and even purple beans that turned to green when you cooked them.”

The pop-up markets were Zwergel’s idea.

“We've tried many different options in the past to incentivize participants to use their benefits. We've invited farmers to come and set up shop and hold their own farmer's market at our clinic,” she said. “And what we found was that time … was just limited for our farmers. A lot of them don't have the staff to come set up a pop-up market.”

So, Adagio has assigned about 10 staff members to pick up produce from farms scattered throughout the region. The nonprofit also pays the farms for all the produce they supply, not only for the items that customers buy. Anything that isn’t sold goes to Adagio’s food pantry for medical clients and qualifying WIC clients.

The participating farms include Acorn Hollow Farm in Armstrong County, Kistaco Farms in Armstrong County, Mazur’s Greenhouse in Allegheny County, Sturges Orchards in Beaver County, Brenckle’s Farm in Butler County, Freedom Farms in Butler County, John-Paul’s Farm in Indiana County, Yarnick’s Farm in Indiana County, Apple Castle in Lawrence County, and Sperdute Farms in Lawrence County.

Adagio will operate the pop-up markets through the end of August. Hours of operation include Mondays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; and Friday throughout the day.