WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – An annual rite of summer is underway in the Diamond City. The 46th annual Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market opened for the season Thursday on Public Square. The summertime staple features a variety of vendors selling fruits, vegetables and other plants.
The market offers many of the vendors the means to help make a living. But as Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it serves as a way for one vendor to help students learn valuable life lessons.
Browsing for sunflower plants, Tina Gelly of Throop picked just the right vendor stand. “I got three sunflowers. And one of them is going to be orange. That’s different. I didn’t even know there was orange and red sunflowers.”
She also learned something else. Ms. Gelly said, “Oh, I think this is wonderful.” Students of Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 helped grow these plants through the Dream Green Farm Program at the Lands at Hillside Farms.
Lisa Billotti developed her green thumb through the program before recently graduating from LIU. “I planted them. Watered them.” When asked if it took a lot of care, she said, “Yeah.”
Ms. Billotti and other LIU students ages 16 to 21 with various impairments grew the plants in a greenhouse and on land before selling their harvest at the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market. It gives students a chance to learn more than farming skills according to LIU Job Coach Jack Brady. “It’s an experience where they get to work with people. They learn cashiering. They learn interaction with customers.”
Mr. Brady says he’s witnessed more than plants reach their maturity under the care and guidance of the student project. He’s witnessed personal growth. The Dream Green Farm program helps prepare students to be productive members of the community. “Any little part of the program they can gain, you know, some workable skills that they can use later and that’s what this is actually for,” said Mr. Brady.
The Dream Green Farm vendor stand will continue at the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market throughout the summer and fall. Except for Thursday, July 4th the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market will be open each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the week before Thanksgiving.