By Kara Mallon Plymouth Farmers’ Market at Plimoth Plantation
It's not just about the shopping: The lingering crowds at some of the areas busiest farmers' markets are testimony to that. Farmers' markets are once again becoming central to the fabric of a community, as it was generations ago. Visiting your local farmers' market is now an experience, beyond grocery shopping. While customers come for seasonal, local vegetables and fruit and fresh baked goods – they stay to chat with the food makers and artisans who bring their hand-made items to market, to see demonstrations of how to use the food they buy, share recipes, to catch up with their neighbors, and most importantly, visit with the farmers who grow their food. Saying that farmers' markets are "essential to the vitality of Massachusetts farms," Governor Deval Patrick has proclaimed August 19-25 Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week. "It is befitting for the citizens of Massachusetts to recognize the continued contribution of farmers' markets to local consumers, as well as their positive impact on the economy of the Commonwealth."
In its ninth season, the Plymouth Farmers’ Market, now at Plimoth Plantation, will join more than 250 other markets in the state to celebrate Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week. More than 30 farmers and cooks set-up on the grassy field at the River Street entrance to Plimoth Plantation each Thursday from 2:30-6:30 p.m. Long-time customers haven't missed a beat and have had no trouble following this farmers' market to its new location. Attendance is up and market member sales are the highest they've ever been as shoppers fill the field each Thursday.
With three certified organic farms participating in the market this year, customers were treated to a rarity: organic sweet corn. Dave Purpura of Plato's Harvest Organic Farm in Middleboro grew enough organic corn to fill shopping baskets for two weeks. Although most of that crop has been harvested and eaten, there is still plenty of conventional sweet corn to be had each Thursday.
According to market member Scott Sauchuk of Sauchuk Farm in Plympton, it’s been a great corn growing season and his annual corn maze, which this year celebrates 100 years of Girl Scouts, is testament to ideal conditions for growing corn.
"Traditionally people come to the farmers’ market for sweet corn and tomatoes, but we're thrilled to say they stay for the plums (Italian, purple and red this year), nectarines, peaches, berries, early apples, watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, heirloom tomatoes, beets, green beans, eggplant (in every conceivable shape, size and color)....not to mention all the hand-baked goodies and earth-based crafts our market members sell," Diane Harting, a market volunteer, said. "One of our missions at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market is to make fresh, farm food available to everyone in the community. The crowds and the increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) usage are proof that we are meeting that goal".
The Plymouth Farmers’ Market was one of the first markets in the area to accept the SNAP program last year thanks to a mutual Department of Agriculture and Department of Transitional Assistance grant. This year, proceeds from the sales of Friend of the Farmers’ Market cards support the program and assure it will continue. EBT and debit card holders visit the market tent, have their card swiped and receive tokens to purchase any market fresh foods.
The Governor further proclaimed that "farmers’ markets create a festive open air setting which enhances community spirit and civic pride by offering a natural place for community gathering."
Visitors and residents in Plymouth are fortunate to have such spaces at which to gather. The grassy field at Plimoth Plantation, for example, is quite full: with farmers, bakers, artisans, friends chatting and shopping and families mingling and listening to the weekly musician. Learning about healthy initiatives in the community explained by the weeks’ host community group, observing cooking demonstrations offered by Plymouth Eats Cooperative and meeting alternative energy companies who assist homeowners to reduce costs are additional means to weave the social fabric of the market community together week after week.
At the heart of the gathering are the 20 returning market farmers and cooks from past seasons, with an additional 15 new and rotating market members who share their skill and hard work consistently and professionally all year long. Harting says there is a waiting list for those who would like to join the Plymouth Farmers’ Market.
"Although we had concerns about moving the market, now that we're half way through our ninth season we feel blessed to have such wonderful community support and a beautiful location. We are grateful, too, for our partnership with Plimoth Plantation. The growing crowds on Thursdays tell us we are doing what we set out to do – to grow food for Plymouth," Harting said.
Join your neighbors and celebrate Massachusetts Farmers’ Markets this week with a visit to one of the many farmers’ markets in the region.