Last week, Food Sol road tripped to upstate New York to visit Farm Sanctuary.  (You can read more on that here, if you like.)  On the way home, we pulled into Lee Plaza, off the Mass Pike near Lee, MA to grab a sandwich and some gas. To our surprise, we found two farmers’ stands set up outside.

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Talk about contrasts in the marketplace!  Beneath the shield of “McCafe,” local farmers were selling blueberries, tomatoes, corn, squash and jam.

“My husband and I have a 110-acre farm in Colrain,” market manager Elizabeth McCarron explained.  “We outgrew our local farmers market and the Mass Turnpike Farmers Market Program provided a larger and more flexible option.”

Last year, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Farmers Market Coordinator David Fenton expanded the Program beyond the 11 service plazas that dot I-90 – adding 8 more  that flank other major state routes.

Like most other types of farmers markets, service-plaza farmers markets operate May through October with a focus on local, fresh, in season and healthy.

“We can sell seven days a week with this Program,” said McCarron. “It’s good for farmers because it gives us another, larger venue and flexible location options.  And it’s good for customers because they can find healthier options – alternatives to the typical fast food fare you find at highway stops like these.”

According to McCarron, MassDOT has even started using amber alerts to advertise market locations and offerings.

Food-system innovation doesn’t have to be sleek cutting-edge software or a radically revised retail model.  Sometimes it’s just as effective to rethink Where and a few of the tools of How.