Creating Hartford Collective Culture at Know Good Market
By Drew Kozub, Leah Fuld, and Taylor Peracchio, Trinity College ’21
What does it mean to be from Hartford? What defines the city’s identity? In recent years, Hartford is developing a reputation for its amazing food truck vendors – and this is no accident. Jeff Devereux (Trinity College ’12) is among the founders of the social enterprise Breakfast Lunch & Dinner (BL&D), which holds many events with the goal of fostering “collective culture” in Hartford. One central event is Know Good Market, an open-air food truck event held in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood on the second Thursday of the month from April to November. At Know Good Market, residents come together to enjoy food, drink, and local vendors, while also developing a closer attachment to one another and to the city of Hartford.
Devereux describes collective culture as a state in which “everyone feels a part of a community, regardless of race, income, or background. …[E]veryone can get involved and participate in something together.” In this way, Devereux’s efforts with Know Good Market are about far more than having fun. Community events that build social networks, trust, and a sense of shared goals can contribute to building upon Hartford’s strengths and addressing its challenges.
Hartford’s struggles and where they stand
Since the late 1990s, survey after survey placed Hartford among the poorest of all American cities. As its population shrank, poverty and racial segregation grew.As a result, redevelopment stalled and the city fell into an extended fiscal crisis. Many of the suburbs surrounding Hartford are wealthy, but suburban residents typically come into the city only to work, leaving directly after the workday. Downtown, sidewalks that are packed by day empty out in the evening hours. In part as a result, many recent college graduates leave Hartford for bigger cities.
While some view Hartford’s size, poverty, and diversity as a disadvantage, Jeff Devereux sees these challenges as opportunities. Indeed, he believes that the city’s diverse population and relatively small size are both advantages in launching a business like BL&D. Hartford has the components of a great city, but needs a shared sense of identity – a kind of social glue – to bring these ingredients together.
Know Good Market
Know Good Market fosters collective culture by bringing together people from different parts of Hartford for a shared experience. In only its second year, the market has grown from two food trucks and about a hundred people, to twelve vendors and as many as eight hundred people. When we visited on Thursday, October 12, the market was the perfect place for a diverse range of residents to get food and drinks after work. The market had numerous culinary options, and almost all the vendors had lines reaching from their trucks. The lines were a great opportunity to meet new people and start making connections.
The Know Good Market is successful in building collective culture in part because the vendors share Jeff Devereux’s goal. Butcher & Red, for instance, produces delicious food by buying products from local farmers and using a non-profit, shared kitchen called Hands on Hartford. Participating in the Market has helped them make connections with other vendors in Connecticut and learn more about what is going on in Hartford. Referring to some of Hartford’s other new businesses that participate in the market, they said: “Hog River Brewery and Story and Soil Coffee show us that Hartford can be a place for young and innovative business owners to thrive.” And through Know Good Market, they see these businesses “all supporting each other.” Moreover, they see the market bringing in residents that generate business and increase a sense of collective culture: “Know Good Market attracts people that don’t usually go into Hartford, and it’s becoming a thing for people to do. It gets them out of their normal social bubble to see that Hartford has some cool stuff going on.” Other vendors concurred. Krystal, from Zipped and Printed, which sells a variety of items featuring bright African textiles, sees Know Good Market as “something really special … bringing the Hartford community together regardless of age or other factors.”
Through face to face interactions at Know Good Market, we get to know our neighbors better, we trust them more, and, ultimately, we’re more able to work together to make change. This collective culture makes the city a more attractive place to live and may contribute to combatting “brain drain” and bringing in more tax revenue.
You Can Help Too!
So now you might be asking, what you can do to help? The answer is quite simple: attend Know Good Market! Start following BL&D on social media so that you won’t miss upcoming events. Jeff Devereux plans to continue creating opportunities for the community to connect at Know Good Market and beyond. Going to events hosted by Breakfast Lunch & Dinner is a great opportunity to have fun while becoming a part of the collective culture of our city. This sense of shared identity will become a resource in addressing challenges and capitalizing on opportunities as a greater Hartford community.
Want to know more? Visit Breakfast Lunch & Dinner’s website to learn about their full range of projects and upcoming events, and also find links to social media accounts: http://www.breakfastxlunchxdinner.com
This article is the fourth and final in a series of four student blog posts featured from Trinity Assistant Professor Abigail Williamson’s first-year seminar Civic Engagement and Community as described in my blog post Classroom to Community at Trinity.
Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor
Chen, Xiangming and Bacon, Nick. “Confronting Urban Legacy: Rediscovering Hartford and New England’s Forgotten Cities.” Hartford: A Global History https://catalyst.library.jhu.edu/catalog/bib_4733740 Whalen, Dana. “Lawmakers Look To Ease The ‘Brain Drain.’” CT News Junkie, 5 Mar. 2017, www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/lawmakers_look_to_ease_the_brain_drain/