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‘Buy Local’ Pioneer Fair Food Is Closing Its Reading Terminal Market Shop

The organization has been so good at its mission, it put its store out of business

Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market
Fair Food [official photo]

The Reading Terminal Market outpost of Fair Food, a pioneer in the “buy local” food scene, is closing permanently. The nonprofit organization ran the Fair Food Farmstand grocery store in the market for 15 years. The announcement came just a couple of days after its annual Brewer’s Plate fundraiser.

Fair Food was set up in 2000 by Ann Karlen and restaurateur Judy Wicks, the original owner of University City institution White Dog Café, with a mission of saving local farmland and supporting a sustainable agriculture system by connecting farmers with restaurants. They were working to bring locally grown food into the city years before that was a thing.

Karlen stepped down last year and John Rhoads took over as interim executive director.

“Local food is much more broadly available now in the retail marketplace than when the farmstand began, which has proved a double-edged sword,” Rhoads said in an emailed statement. “From Fair Food’s non-profit perspective, growing competition is proof our overall mission has been successful, but it does not guarantee continued profitable operation of the farmstand. Our direction as an organization is also changing, and it no longer makes sense for us to maintain a retail outlet while trying to refocus our efforts on our advocacy work and events.”

To be clear, Fair Food as an organization is not going anywhere; it’s just the Farmstand that’s closing, sometime this month. The organization’s next major event is the Philly Farm and Food Fest, moved to the Navy Yard this year. This is the first time the fest will be held outdoors and it’s going to be more of a food and drink event than in years past. In addition to the farmers and other producers setting up tables, there will be food trucks, lots more brewers, distillers, and winemakers, a barbecue cook off, and an Oktoberfest tent with live music, animals, and pumpkin carving. It’s taking place on October 28.

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