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Farmers market’s new home means shopping doesn’t end

BLOOMSBURG — With shopping malls experiencing a seemingly downward trend, a local couple is breathing new life into a regional mall with their innovative approach to entrepreneurship.

Dustan and Carlyn McKee have been growing mushrooms at their Millville Farm for several years. but they saw a need in the area for locally sourced food. A nearby shopping mall, Columbia Colonnade, near Bloomsburg, had the empty space plus easy highway access and plenty of parking, so they were inspired to open the Greenwood Farm Market at the mall.

“There are many perks of being part of the mall,” said Carlyn. “They have an established mall walker circuit so you can get your steps in. Geisinger is there and there are people there already to shop. They are really excited about this idea and we’re coming with fresh ideas unlike anything at the mall, so they are really supportive.”

Comprised of stands filled with products from local farmers and artisans, the market opened in early April and has been expanding to now include over 22 vendors. Their products range from meat and eggs to fermented foods, fruits and vegetables and wines. Offerings in art classes are also available at the market which occupies around a 4,000 square foot area in the mall. There are also baked goods and canned foods and of course, mushrooms grown at the McKee’s farm.

The market operates Thursday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p..m., hours that were designed to accommodate a farmer’s schedule.

“The discussions about the later time frame has actually been appreciated by the customers — they get it and are willing to help the farmers who are keeping up their regular customers and are now expanding into an afternoon time slot,” Carlyn said.

“Too many farmers have to have a job off the farm and many of them still will. This will enable them to have a second stream of income and have a whole second customer base while keeping their existing customer base,” she added.

“Another reason we wanted to do it was for food security in our area. Strengthening food security is a responsibility,” she said.

There are two new businesses that began full-time at the market this week, one specializing in herbs and the other will offer microgreens and milk keifer year-round, according to Carlyn. In June, two farms are planning to be at the market when they have excess produce from their roadside stand.

“There are lots of other good things the community is considering adding to the market,” Carlyn said, “so we think it’s going to continue to get the traffic it needs to sustain and expand.”

“It’s such a joy to see a line at the dairyman’s table and people leaving with bags full of food and crafts. I am really enjoying promoting all of the local businesses and seizing the opportunity to educate about the realities of farming and how important it is to create food security,” she said.

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