Ashley Strysko, '17, samples peanut butter at the Peanut Butter & More booth on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2015. Peanut Butter & More is owned by Joe Conicelli and is one of the many vendors at the weekly Farmer's Market at Farrington Square. (Aminat Ologunebi/B&W Photo)

Farmer’s Market vendors talk about their off season


Home to the university bookstore, mail center and Johnny’s Bagels, Farrington Square transforms into a thriving community hub every Thursday in the spring, summer and fall with the arrival of the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market.

Vendors travel to Lehigh’s campus to sell food, produce, handmade goods and other products to members of the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities. The market, which is open weekly on Thursdays from May through October, marked the end of its season on Oct. 29.

All of the vendors have their own products, but they also have separate reasons for selling at Lehigh.

“I think it’s a great place – the south side of Bethlehem,” said Laura Kotran, the owner and chef of Warm Sugar Bakery. “There’s a lot of kids that come here, there’s a lot of adults in the community and they all kind of merge into one, which is nice to see.”

Fall and spring seasons are huge for Kotran. She does deliveries throughout the Lehigh Valley, and bakes for orders, events and markets, but doesn’t sell at other stores. Her desserts are handmade with organic and locally sourced ingredients.

The season also plays a large role in determining which flavors she wants to sell and when she wants to sell them.

“I come up with an idea of what flavors I want to do for the week,” she said. “I have some standard things that I like to bring that people like to seek out. I kind of judge it based on the time of year. That really influences what you’re going to sell and what kind of product you’re making.”

The winter is Kotran’s time to relax, regroup for the next market season and spend time with her son. But she still takes the orders that come in and delivers them.

Students wait in line to order lunch at The Taza Truck on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2015. The Taza Truck is one of the many vendors at the Farmer's Market. Thursday was the last day of the Farmer's Market until the spring.

Students wait in line to order lunch at The Taza Truck on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2015. The Taza Truck is one of the many vendors at the Farmer’s Market. Thursday was the last day of the Farmer’s Market until the spring.

Bechdolt Orchards, located in Hellertown, grows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and is also another major vendor at the farmers’ market.

“We try to bring back our stuff to the community and to different communities,” said Denise Filo, the farmers’ market manager from Bethlehem. “So, if there is a farmers’ market in an area that we can get to we try to bring it.”

Filo said preparing for the farmers’ market takes a lot of work. It involves a lot of picking, harvesting, figuring out inventory and stock of what they need and what they have sold, and setting up tables and tents.

Aside from working at the orchard, Filo is also a full-time nurse aid.

Another fresh produce vendor is Lettuce Alone Farm, from New Smithville, Pennsylvania, which sells at Emmaus Farmers’ Markets and at a few restaurants. Chuck Armitage, one of the sellers, enjoys selling at Lehigh because he wants to help out Bethlehem locals.

“I do well here and I’m providing service to people in the city who don’t have transportation or a means to get out to the country to come and buy things,” Armitage said.

When Artmitage was asked how he prepares for farmers markets, he had only one thing to say: “I bust my ass.”

In the winters, Armitage works on antique lighting and farms in greenhouses.

One special and distinct vendor is Peanut Butter & More. Joe Conicelli, also known as “Peanut Butter Joe” by Lehigh students, is the owner of Peanut Butter & More, and he sells his freshly ground peanut butter in five different flavors: natural, organic, honey roasted, almond and chocolate. He lets people try whichever samples they want.

To prepare, Conicelli goes to his local commissary, which is at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, to make his different flavors. He grinds the nuts, puts them in packages and then brings it to the markets.

As of right now, he sells his peanut butter at several markets, but he has a new idea.

“I’m going to start delivering,” Conicelli said. “I’ve given some students my card, so if they want I’m going to mail it to the mail center over here at the university.”

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