Urban Ag Fair Comes to Cambridge

Robert Sondak
Spare Change News

High food prices are prompting increased interest in locally grown foods and community gardening — both of which will be on display at this year’s outdoor Cambridge Urban Agricultural Fair in Harvard Square.

“The high price for food has opened up Cambridge residents’ eyes to the concept of locally grown food,” said Penny Peters, an aide to Cambridge Vice Mayor Henrietta Davis. “The Urban Ag Fair uses very small amounts of gas in the transportation of food from the garden to the kitchen.”

“Residents are now inquiring in large numbers about local community gardens,” said Matt Frank, of the Harvard Square Business Association. “The city of Cambridge has a long list for people interested in community gardening.”

The Sept. 18 Urban Ag Fair (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) will showcase locally grown fruits and vegetables and baked goods along with information on community gardening and food-related organizations.

The Ag Fair was founded in 2008 by the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA), an organization that sponsors events within Harvard Square and works with the city government on development issues. HSBA, in conjunction with the city, started the fair three years ago to promote local community gardens, produce growers, food producers and farmers markets with the goal to get people to attend the event. The fair is free, open to the public and family friendly.

The location is Winthrop Park, on JKF Street between Winthrop and Mt. Auburn Street. This large block-long area was the original market square for what is now Cambridge. The city was known as Newtowne when the city streets were laid, back in the mid-1600s.

The Urban Ag Fair features fruit, produce, flowers, honey, and eggs, all of which are grown and produced in Cambridge — that’s the first Fair rule.

The second Fair rule requires that all baked goods, preserves, pickles and beverages include ingredients that have either been purchased at a Cambridge farmers market or that have been grown in the state. The third rule stipulates that all restaurants and food vendors must include Massachusetts-grown ingredients in the food that they sell at the fair.

Prizes will be awarded for the tastiest, biggest or ugliest fruit, and the most creative food, decided by a group of local judges. Some of the fair items will be available for tastings. Local chefs, restaurateurs, beekeepers and brewers will share their food knowledge with the public.

Some of the farmers from the Massachusetts farmers market may be present to sell locally grown produce, fruits and flowers.

Information tables will be set up for city organizations and non-profit organizations. The Cambridge Conservation Commission (CCC) will feature an exhibit on small indoor-outdoor container gardens along with ways for city residents to develop green thumbs. They will also display fact sheets about the 13 community gardens and how to get on a wait list for one within the city.

The Central Square-based Harvest Co-op Market will have a table at the fair highlighting its local food-oriented supermarket. In addition, Vice Mayor Davis will be conducting a book swap focusing this year on books about food.

Matt Frank elaborated on how the fair has grown over the past three years. “People talk about the fair online within the city,” Frank said. “They make their comments on local community bulletin boards about the fair.”

The Urban Ag Fair has grown over the past three years into an attractive educational and creative event focusing on locally grown food and food products. The fair usually draws 3,000 to 4,000 people for the day.

ROBERT SONDAK is a writer/vendor for Spare Change News.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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