If you attended last year’s Boston Local Food Festival, you probably noticed--amidst the food
vendors and farm stands--a big white bus, outfitted with an awning to provide shade to boxes of
heirloom tomatoes, beets, heads of lettuce, and other produce.
This is the “mobile market,” debuted by Dave Jackson of Enterprise Farm at the first BLFF in
2010. The inspiration for a farmers’ market on wheels came from similar ventures across the
country. At Enterprise (located in Whately, Massachusetts, about two hours west of Boston), the
project began with the purchase of a ‘95 Chevy Bluebird once used by a military traveling band.
“We bought the bus a year ago and converted it over the summer,” said Shelly Beck, project
manager at the farm. She described ripping out the seats and adding produce bins, along with a
refrigerator, stairs out the back, and an awning attached to the side of the bus.
The goal of the bus project is to bring Certified Organic produce grown on Enterprise Farm’s
80 acres to urban areas without access to fresh farm food. Because the fruits and vegetables
are direct from the grower, Beck said, “Prices can be kept low--comparable to wholesale.” The
mobile market also carries a SNAP machine so that it can accept food stamps.
It’s a program that fits well with Jackson’s mission to “change our food distribution system
so that people of all walks of life can eat fresh, local, and healthy.” Recently, he and Beck
partnered with an organization called Shape Up Somerville to bring the mobile market to the
Mystic Avenue Housing Development, an area along Route 93 that qualifies as a “food desert”
because of its lack of access to healthy, affordable food. “It’s the kind of place where you have
to take a cab to get to a grocery store,” Beck said. Starting in June, the mobile market will bring
fresh produce to the neighborhood on Saturdays.
The bus will also make regular stops at housing communities and senior centers in
Northampton and Greenfield, and soon perhaps at a school in Holyoke where Beck envisions
parents’ picking up their kids and stopping to buy some fresh produce on their way home for
dinner. These sites will be testing grounds for the future of the mobile market, Beck said: “We
need to find out what the demand is, what people want, and what the food culture is in these
Membership support from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Enterprise
Farm allows Jackson and Beck to pursue projects like the mobile farmers’ market and to
subsidize some of the cost of the fruits and vegetables sold on the bus. “The best way to
support what we’re doing,” Beck said, “is to join the CSA.”
She hopes to bring the mobile market back to this year’s BLFF so that festival-goers can stop by and learn more about Enterprise’s innovative efforts to make fresh, delicious food more accessible.
Photos courtesy of Shelly Beck.