County farmers’ markets expand for selling season

ADDISON COUNTY — The days are getting warmer, and soon farmers markets will be springing up again all around the county.
All five area markets will sport changes in operations that each hopes will better serve those who want to buy locally produced vegetables, fruits, other food products and crafts.
In Middlebury and Orwell, the farmers’ markets are increasing the number of vendors by 20 percent or more. The markets in Vergennes and Bristol are changing the days they operate. The Brandon market will probably see the fewest changes, but organizers there hope for a small expansion in offerings.
For the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, which operates every Wednesday and Saturday in the Marble Works complex, the season will be bringing some changes. Among the changes is the addition of 10 more spots to the more than 50 already available to vendors at the Saturday market.
The addition of the new spots, which will be located on the grass just in front of the American Flatbread restaurant just across the parking lot from the other 50-plus stalls, is an attempt to accommodate the growing numbers of vendors vying for spots. Pam Taylor, the market coordinator, said she has already scheduled more than 70 vendors to participate over the course of the season, plus musical acts to entertain on Saturdays. And with the success of the market, there are more and more vendors who want in — so many, in fact, that there is a waiting list this year.
“The market just keeps getting stronger and stronger,” said Taylor. “We exceeded our sales and broke records last year.”
In order to keep the focus on food, the Middlebury Farmers’ Market board of directors tries to maintain a balance of 70 percent produce and baked goods sellers and 30 percent arts and craft sellers, which Taylor said can be a struggle some years. But this year, Taylor said, she admitted four new agricultural vendors.
“That’s what a healthy market wants,” she said.
Taylor also urged the public to visit the market’s website at www.middleburyfarmersmarket.org, a newly redesigned version of which will be up and running by the time the market begins. This year the website will feature the market schedule, including information on the six Saturday markets with special events happening this season. She also said that the website would include a produce calendar informing customers what types of produce would be available at upcoming markets.
There are other changes. Due to a new stipulation in the market’s lease, the market can no longer sell hot food.
“We have to be careful that we’re not in competition with the other businesses in the Marble Works,” said market board Chair Andrea Ochs.
And according to bylaws in place since the market’s inception in 1974, goods sold at the market must be produced in vendors’ homes or on their farms. This rule was interpreted to mean the market was unable to allow a number of favorites back this year, including longtime market favorite Samosaman and the Ferrisburgh-based Cookie Love.
But Taylor said the market’s new vendors could make up for the loss — offerings will include several new prepared food vendors and two wineries, Lincoln Peak and Shelburne Vineyards.
“It’s a strong, healthy market,” said Taylor. “The community supports us really well.”
The summer market will open on Saturday, May 15, and Wednesday markets will begin on June 16. Both will run from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Marble Works.
In Vergennes, the long-standing farmers’ market there will move from Mondays to Thursdays, but retain its home on the central city green. Hours will run from 3 to 7 p.m. beginning on Thursday, June 3, and running through Sept. 2. Vendors will continue to set up just behind the sidewalk along Main Street, city officials said.
Alderwoman Chris Collette, the city council’s liaison with the Vergennes farmers’ market, told aldermen this winter that market organizers made the move from Monday because of traffic and crowds associated with the popular series of Monday evening concerts on the Vergennes green. Those concerts began just as market venders were breaking down their stalls.
This year the Bristol Farmer’s Market will move from Wednesdays to Saturdays. The result of surveys done by market coordinators show that people would prefer to shop on a Saturday.
The markets will begin on June 5 and run until Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the town green. In addition to food, the market will offer children’s activities, demonstrations and live music.
The Orwell farmers’ market, which will be entering its sixth year, will begin June 18 and run every Friday through Oct. 1. The market has generally drawn between six and 10 vendors, said Ochs, who also helps with the Orwell market. But this year will have space for at least 20 spots.
The market will operate on the town green from 3-6 p.m. on Fridays.
Every Friday starting May 28, the Brandon Farmers’ Market will run in Central Park from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The last day of the season will be Oct. 8 followed, as in past years, by a harvest festival on Oct. 9.
This year there will be a new goat milk soap vendor, Back Home Again Café will sell bread, and the market will boast a number of other new merchants, market manager Wendy Cijka said.
“I would encourage people to come out and see what’s new,” she added.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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