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Why Hartford Needs a Fresh Market

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Take a look at this report published by DataHaven: “The percentage of Connecticut adults who say they did not have enough money to buy food has nearly doubled...according to new data released (Sep. 16, 2022). The rate of food insecurity as of August 2022, at 17 percent of adults, is higher than the rate measured by DataHaven in 2015, 2018, mid-2020, and 2021. In 2021, just 10 percent of Connecticut adults reported food insecurity”.

At Mercado Popular, we know this not only from statistical data but from real-life experience with the people of Hartford.

Mercado Popular got its start as a winter pop up farm market in 2020 and 2021. We first occupied a vacant storefront in Hartford, infusing life into the neighborhood. The second took place at the Hartford Public Library.

In addition to supplying fresh produce and high-quality local foods, we provided workshops designed to educate people about growing and making their own food as well as the health benefits of certain products. Each of these markets lasted 3-4 hours and brought in thousands of dollars in revenue for area farmers while successfully bringing under-resourced community members to a shared space with health and wellness at the forefront.

After these markets, people began asking, “How can we keep this going and make it a permanent thing?” So that is precisely what we did. We created a permanent fresh market.

In this blog, we want to tell you who we are and what we do. We will explain the process and how to be involved as a community member or a farmer. Then, we will give you a helpful next step to get you started.

A Fresh Market - More Than a Grocery Store

Mercado Popular specializes in fresh and local food. We believe that everyone should have access to healthy, nutritious, and affordable food. We are dedicated to providing the community with access to locally-sourced produce as well as food education opportunities.

Our vision

Mercado Popular is a community organization committed to reducing food apartheid in the Hartford Community and increasing food sovereignty by bringing fresh, healthy, local food into the city.

Mercado Popular is an equitable solution to barriers to healthful, affordable food while empowering under-resourced communities and providing farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color with access to space.

Our mission

Mercado Popular is to highlight producers who are people of color by sharing space and resources that are not typically available to this demographic.

We source food directly from local farms. From seed to sale, Mercado Popular supports a variety of local Connecticut farmers, especially farmers of color, by purchasing their products and selling them via our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This structure helps farmers be sustainable all year round.

Mercado Popular is also a space where education around natural foods inspires a community that is typically under-resourced while sharing space for farmers to be recognized as leaders in our food landscape. This results in farmers growing their businesses.

Our Story

The story of Mercado Popular is intimately entwined with the story of its founder, Jocelyn Cerda, as she navigated chronic illness and discovered the healing properties of food. Through her community work, Jocelyn discovered the realities of food insecurity in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Beginning

Jocelyn Cerda began working at farmer’s markets in Hartford as an intern. She worked to connect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit recipients with farmer’s markets in the area. Still, she was quickly discouraged because of the lack of representation for people of color in the customer base and at the farmers’ tables.

The Problem

When Mercado Popular started, there were few grocery stores available in downtown Hartford. The nearest full-service markets were in nearby West Hartford, East Hartford, or New Britain. Most people, especially those with limited access to transportation, did their shopping at local bodegas or convenience stores. The community lacked access to fresh, healthy produce and farm-fresh products.

The Solution

Jocelyn devised a plan to support farmers of color and connect them with the people in the Hartford community, illuminating Hartford’s food desert. Her plan also provided space that could harness the immense knowledge base of people in the community and share it with a broad audience.

How the Process Works at Mercado Popular

Mercado Popular is a community-supported agriculture store with an option for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a system that connects farmers and consumers in a mutually beneficial relationship. It allows consumers to purchase products directly from local farmers, thus providing them with fresh, locally-grown food. At the same time, it gives farmers a steady income and an opportunity to build relationships with their customers. CSA also helps strengthen the local economy by supporting small farms and reducing the environmental impacts of long-distance food transportation.

What We Offer

Mercado Popular is a permanent fixture located at 22 Orange St, Hartford, CT 06106.

We are:

  • A grocery store

  • A cafe

  • A meeting space

  • An event space

  • An educational hub for Hartford area residents

These are some of the services we provide:

Classes to Grow Your Own Food

We offer classes and workshops for Hartford residents to learn how to grow their own fruits and vegetables in the city. Our experts will teach you about soil preparation, planting techniques, and caring for your plants throughout the season.

Connect With Local Farms

We partner with local farms in the area, with a focus on farmers who are people of color, to bring you fresh, seasonal produce. This allows us to support our local farmers while giving you access to the highest quality ingredients.

Nutrition Education

At Mercado Popular, we believe in educating our customers about food and nutrition. We offer classes on cooking techniques, healthy eating habits, and nutrition information so you can make informed choices when grocery shopping.

Support for the Community

When you purchase from Mercado Popular, you are supporting the local ecosystem of farmers and small business owners. We are committed to helping our customers make healthier choices, so our staff is trained to provide advice and tips to expand your knowledge of nutrition.

A Gathering Space in Hartford

At Mercado Popular, we aren’t just a grocer; we want people to hang out where the food is. Our cafe space is perfect for meeting your bestie for a healthy lunch, attending a workshop to learn how herbs can influence your health, or hosting your next family, community, or corporate event.

For more information about renting our cafe space, contact us at

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Share

All of our produce is seasonal, so here is what you can expect year-round.

Summer CSA share (June-August): includes greens, fruits, preserves, baked goods, dairy, cheese, eggs, meat, and other added-value products.

Fall CSA share (August-October): includes root veggies, apples/pears, baked goods, dairy, eggs, meat, cheese, and added value preserves.

Winter CSA share (November- February): includes limited veggies, micro greens or those grown indoors, meat, bread, cheese, eggs, dairy, added value items, and preserves

Spring CSA Share (March-May): same as the winter share

Each CSA comes with recipes and may include grains, legumes, and pantry items from the Hartford food coop.

It is also important to know that vegetarian CSA shares are available.

The Ways Farmers Can Participate

Mercado Popular prides itself on providing farmers with a broader reach and being part of a system that honors generational farming knowledge. We give farmers a platform and promote them as leaders for cultural change, dismantling capitalism that supports private parties, not the general population.

By partnering with Mercado Popular, farmers enjoy the following benefits:

  • Through the Mercado Popular CSA, farmers sell produce wholesale to Mercado Popular. Mercado Popular will assemble CSA bags with produce and coop pantry items. No fuss and no hassle.

  • Farmers select Mercado Popular as a designated location for their already established CSA for a nominal fee to support Mercado Popular. We provide space-sharing and distribution support. This can help farmers broaden their reach.

  • Farmers Markets provide a monthly market pop-up, including farmer vendors and other small businesses.

  • Community education workshops connect farmers with customers. Do you have an idea for connecting with Hartford area residents through an educational workshop? We’d love to hear your pitch and get your workshop on the schedule.

For more information about connecting with Mercado Popular as a farmer, click here.

The Next Step of Your Journey

At Mercado Popular, we are committed to the truth that everyone should have access to healthy, nutritious, and affordable food. Here is one step you can take immediately.

Download our guide to grow and make your own salsa by clicking here. This is a fundamental step you can take to continue your healthy food journey.

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