Sustaining Stillman’s: Turning a Profit at the Boston Public Market

By Kendall Vanderslice

Outside the Harvard Square Sunday Market, rain drizzles on a row of vendors as they advertise their assortments of produce, cheese, and baked goods to passersby. In a small, unassuming stall in the middle of the market, Rebecca Stillman sells a variety of meats on behalf of her daughter Kate, owner of Stillman’s Quality Meats.

Kate’s father started Stillman’s Farm over 30 years ago. Eager to find her own niche in the family business, Kate initiated Stillman’s Quality Meats on her father’s land in 2005, selling at markets all over the greater Boston area. Through the direct marketing made possible by the Massachusetts’ Farmer’s Market Association, small family farming has maintained a sustainable income for Massachusetts farmers. The ability to build relationships with customers has allowed the Stillmans to ensure their customers that they exercise the highest standards of care out of respect for nature rather than to appease third-party certifiers.

While seasonal farmer’s markets have given Kate the opportunity to start and grow her business by selling “conscientiously raised, grass fed, pasture raised meat and poultry,” it is her new stall at the year-round Boston Public Market that will give her company the space to turn a profit. Rebecca eagerly tells of the new value-added products available for sale there. From beef kebabs and peach-stuffed pork chops to house-cured charcuterie, the spread is sure to entice the crowd.

In an attempt to find new ways to sustain the business of farming in a post-agrarian culture, small farmers are turning to value-added products to boost profits. A produce farmer might, for instance, be able to sell quarts of fresh concord grapes for $5 a basket. At the end of the day, any leftover grapes will likely not make it through another market. With the addition of just a touch of sugar and half an hour over the stove, however, the farmer can sell those otherwise unusable grapes for $10 a jar in the form of jelly. By transforming their original products into something new and more valuable, farmers are finding ways to widen the scope of their sales. Creating a forum to introduce value-added products revamps the playing field for local small farmers.

Kate Stillman has eagerly joined in the game, but in the end, it is her customers who truly win.

“[Kate] survives, but it’s tough. She provides for her family,” says Rebecca . But when asked if customers are increasingly happy, Rebecca smiles demurely and nods. “Absolutely. Oh, absolutely.”

Breaking Ground on the Boston Public Market

By Kimi Ceridon

Gastronomy student Kimi Ceridon recaps the groundbreaking ceremony for the Boston Public Market.

BPMBoston is poised to open the first market with all locally sourced products in the nation. On October 9th, the much talked about Boston Public Market held a public ground breaking ceremony on the steps of city hall hitting an important milestone in making this dream a reality. If the crystal blue skies and perfect October weather were good luck signs, then Boston will gather again next summer to celebrate the market’s grand opening.

The Boston Public Market is scheduled to open in 2015. The 28,000 square foot space will host a year-round market offering New England produce, meat, prepared foods and artisan products directly to consumers. Located in the heart of Boston on the first floor of the Haymarket T-station, the market aims to provide the greater Boston area with a single location for buying directly from local producers. Additionally, the market is incorporating resources to improve local food access for all income levels.

Morningstar said, “What makes it even more special is that the Haymarket vendors have operated alongside our location for over 120 years. We are simply adding to a long-standing tradition.” However, since the Boston Public Market is focused on local purveyors, it is unclear whether the current vendors from outdoor weekend market at Haymarket qualify as Boston Public Market vendors. These vendor do not necessarily sell products exclusively from New England. To participate in the market, vendor applications were submitted and reviewed earlier in 2014

Liz Morningstar
Liz Morningstar

The ceremony was a who’s who of Boston politics with appearances by Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Anthony Pertuccelli, and Representative Aaron Miclewitz. Gubernatorial Candidate Martha Coakley was also spotted in the crowd. Liz Morningstar, the CEO of the Boston Public Market, kicked off the ceremony graciously thanking the many sponsors who supported this endeavor. Acknowledging the importance of food to culture, she explained, “Food transcends so many issues in our society.”

Before introducing Governor Patrick, the Boston Public Market EBT/SNAP Program Manager, Shaquille Jones, talked about his work to include a fully integrated EBT and SNAP program at the market from day one. The market also has a goal of making healthy food accessible through cooking, shopping, nutrition and fitness classes including demonstrations in a 3000 square foot teaching kitchen.

Gov. Deval Patrick
Gov. Deval Patrick

Governor Patrick then took the stage and proudly proudly declared, “I am a foodie.” Although the Boston Public Market will not open before Governor Patrick leaves office, the market represents a significant accomplishment of his administration. As he explained, the project required coordinating across many agencies, advocacy groups, industry representatives, and citizen groups including the City of Boston, the greater Commonwealth, The Trustees of Reservations, the Department of Transportation and the many producers of local products in Massachusetts. One of those producers, Jared Auerback of Red’s Best seafood shop, explained that the market will help him and other producers bring great products directly to customers.

Mayor Walsh, Senator Pertuccelli, and Representative Miclewitz followed up by praising the effort that led up to the groundbreaking. They look forward to showcasing the city through the market and welcome the jobs and tourism the market brings to the city. The groundbreaking represents 13 years of Morningstar’s hard work and advocacy. Thursday’s milestone was clearly a welcome celebration.