Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- Larry O'Malia shared some pointers with a patron Thursday on the first day of the 41st Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market. The owner of Larry O'Malia Farm & Greenhouse in Plains Township brought his wealth of knowledge and an abundance of vegetables and flowers to a familiar venue. The business that Mr. O'Malia's family started in 1959 has been a part of all but one of Wilkes-Barre's annual farmers markets. He considers the market vital to his livelihood. "Selling the product is yeah that's probably a very important aspect of it but one of the things I look at it as, too, it introduces me to the people that maybe that I wouldn't have met just staying at my home base."
Mr. O'Malia and other produce growers try to cash in on the market and cultivate repeat customers like Viviana Amigon of Wilkes-Barre who bought some flowers. "We always wait for this time of the year to get them here," she said.
While there seems to be no shortage of vegetable growers at the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market, the same cannot be said for fruit growers. Places like Brace's Orchard in northeastern Pennsylvania are few and far between. Paul Brace is an 8th generation fruit grower. He continues a family business in Dallas that's witnessed other Luzerne County fruit growers fall by the wayside. "There was 88 fruit growers in Luzerne County you know just one generation ago and now there's two basically people that make their living farming in Luzerne County," he said. Mr. Brace relies on venues like the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market to help keep his business thriving. "It's a seasonal business. So you have to remind people hey we're still here. We still have fresh product to sell."
Jocelyn Hook of Swoyersville is among the shoppers glad to see Mr. Brace and the other growers back for another year. "I try to stay and eat healthy and buy fresh produce in the summer especially when it's plentiful and it's in season and also support the local merchants and the Farmers Market is a great way to do that," she said.
The Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market opens each Thursday at 10:00 a.m. It will continue through November 20th which is the Thursday before Thanksgiving.