Spring is really here! Berkshire farmers markets are back

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By Friday, May 12 Farm and Table  2 Comments
Terry Cowgill
The Great Barrington Farmers Market opens this Saturday (May 13) from 9 to 1 on Church Street, with 25 vendors expected to offer produce and products.

Who doesn’t like to buy fresh food at the local farmers market? The food is grown, made or bred near where you live — reinforcing the “local” in local food. Shopping at your local farmers market gives you the opportunity to run into friends and neighbors, making the visit a social experience, too. Many markets have live music, places to sit and visit with neighbors, and activities for children.

Garlic, turnips and collard greens displayed at the farmer's market. Photo: Jonathan Hankin

Garlic, turnips and collard greens displayed at the farmer’s market. Photo: Jonathan Hankin

Farmers markets are fun for customers. But they also play an important role in the economy of a town, not to mention a major financial benefit to local farmers and food vendors. And they provide easy access to healthily grown and nutritious food that you know has not traveled long distances.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Enjoy your local farmers market where you can buy the freshest food — and, while doing so, enjoy the company of your friends and neighbors. Listed below are most of the farmers markets in Berkshire County this year.

Dalton

Opening on June 16, the newly-formed farmers market in Dalton will be held on the town’s Main Street. The market will be open on Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. In addition to locally grown food, the market will feature artisans and prepared food vendors.

This new market’s origins stem from the “Grow Dalton” committee, a nonprofit that is living up to its name. It is organized and led by Steve Sears and John Kelly, businessmen in Dalton, Market applications are still being considered.

The organizers are planning ahead to autumn and winter, when they will move the farmers market to a renovated factory in Dalton that is hosting a number of businesses.

Great Barrington

HMarkristo Farm

Markristo Farm from Hillsdale, New York, will be one of the 25 vendors at the Great Barrington Farmers Market.

The 27-year old Great Barrington Farmers Market opens tomorrow, Saturday May 13, at 9 a.m., and ends at 1 p.m. The market is at 18 Church Street, right behind the Lee Bank building. Even though the market typically attracts 400-600 shoppers on a weekend morning, parking is typically not a problem.

Kate Burke, market manager, says thirty vendors will be selling at the market during the season, although at any given time there will be about 25 vendors. New to the market this year are producers of cider, skin care, health and beauty products, baby food, and, in a delicious turn of events, a popsicle vendor.

In addition to all of the food, the market also features musicians every week. And there are activities such as tastings, scavenger hunts for youngsters, and this year a pie-baking contest every few weeks.

Once again this year, the Co-op and Jane Iredale have doubled the SNAP benefits for groceries. Those with a SNAP card can swipe it to receive $50 worth of wooden coins. This benefit, organized by the Co-op, began last year and proved so popular that it is returning.

Hancock

The Hancock Farmers Market is held on Sundays from 10-4 and Wednesdays from 10-2. It will open on Sunday, June 4 and close on Sunday,October 15.The market is at 3210 Hancock Road, which is also Route 43 in Hancock. Being only one mile from Jiminy Peak is a decided advantage for the market.

The number of vendors varies from a half dozen to 14. “But it is pretty stable at 6-8 vendors,” says Roger Johnson, market manager.

About 70 to 80 percent of the customers come from three resorts in the area: Bentley Brook Condominiums, the Country Inn on Jiminy Peak, and Vacation Village, a mountain top resort. The high proportion of visitors to North County leads to attendance fluctuation.

The market, which specializes in organic produce, buys its wares from local farmers. The Hancock market began in the spring of 2012 and is located at the Appletree Hill farm, a 100-year old working farm.

Lenox

LenoxThe Lenox farmers market was formed “eight-ten years” ago. It has moved around town over that time, but this year will be at the St. Ann’s Church on Main Street. The market opens on Friday, June 2 and closes on Friday, September 15. Its hours are noon – 4. Johannah Hunter was the market manager last year, and is returning this year. She is a farmer who grows rabbits and quails, plus chickens for their eggs.

Location issues were resolved on May 8, but before then Hunter reported that at least 20 vendors were interested in joining the market. The vendors include farmers selling local meat, cheese, produce, breads, and desserts. There will be crafters selling clothing and custom-made fragrance blends.

Activities at the Lenox market will include various days highlighting live music, fresh cooked lunches, a pie contest, and hula hooping (presumably for kids, but who knows?). The end of the season will feature a dog show.

Monterey 

Entering its second year, the Monterey Farmers Market will open on Tuesday, June 6. The market will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday through September. The market will be held outside the newly completed Monterey Community Center, conveniently located smack in the center of town.

strawberriesHannah Bracken, market manager, points out that being so close to the Community Center provides the market with an accessible community bathroom.

Last year, the Monterey market started small, with three vendors on its first day. But by the end of the 2016 season, there were six regular vendors, plus several who showed up now and then.

At the Monterey market, shoppers can buy chicken and duck eggs, meat from a variety of vendors selling frozen chicken, sausage, pork, chicken and beef. Hannah Bracken, market manager, reports that there were three vegetable vendors (including herself). Most of the vendors are Monterey residents, although the meat producer lives in neighboring New Marlborough. And Anna Jensen, a Swedish baker whose family lives in Monterey, makes granola and a variety of cookies.

And, of course, this being Monterey, there is Monterey Chevre. Although you can buy Susan Sellew’s famous chevre at a number of stores, what you can buy only at this local market is the fresh feta she makes at Rawson Brook. If you don’t buy it at the market, you don’t buy it. Period. You can’t even buy it at the farm. It is available only at the town’s farmers market.

Last year, on a busy day — and without any advertising — the Monterey market had about 60 customers. Bracken hopes to grow the market this year. A possible source of entertainment at the market would be music, particularly since there are a number of talented musicians in Monterey.

If you feel the need to snack at the market, a meat vendor also sells prepared quiches. And Bracken reports that a lot of what is sold at the market can be snacked on while shopping.

There is a lot of available parking for customers at this cash-only market. Bracken is looking for new vendors, so if you are interested, call 413-854-8545.

New Marlborough

The New Marlborough farmers market has undergone some changes in the last few years. Its latest alteration was initiated by the town’s Agriculture Commission that identified hosting a year-round farmers market as its top priority. This summer the market will be held on the Village Green, right on Route 57, a central location that the Ag Com hopes will encourage traffic to the farm vendors. As Jan Johnson, a local farmer and tireless advocate of local food says, “Nothing supports farmers more than making it easy for them to sell the product they raise.”

carrots etcThe market will be held from 10 a.m. – 12 noon on Saturdays, May through October, beginning May 6. Market organizers are hoping that support of the summer market will be strong enough to start a weekly indoor market after October.

Vendors from New Marlborough, Monterey and Sheffield will be selling beef, pork, chicken, goat, eggs, baked goods, vegetables, forest-grown shitake mushrooms, honey and beeswax products, and a variety of handmade items. Shoppers who get hungry can buy baked goods to tide them over before lunch.

New Marlborough’s Ag Com reached out to Mt. Everett’s Principal Glenn DeVoti about using the market as a venue for students to perform. The market organizers are working with the Land Trust, the Village Association, and other cultural groups in town to help spread news about the market. Peter Platt, owner and chef of the Old Inn on the Green, plans to be an enthusiastic shopper, and Cantina considered becoming a vendor.

North Adams

One of the oldest farmers markets in the Berkshires, the North Adams market, opens on June 10 and runs through October 21. But don’t fret — it becomes an indoor market on the first Saturday of every month from November-May. The market has 15-25 vendors, a number that fluctuates by season. The North Adams market is one of the oldest in Berkshire County, having begun in the early 1980’s.

Like all other markets, shoppers in North Adams can buy fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, baked goods, pastries, jam, jellies, honey, and maple syrup. An item not found at most markets (or any other market, for that matter) is emu. Presumably the vendor explains how to cook it. Another unusual farmers market item is hops, for those who are seeking it.

Suzy Helme, director of North Adams Community Events, reports that “on a good day,” the market attracts a few hundred shoppers. The Farmers Market Committee includes the market manager, several market vendors, and a few community members.

Helme says that the new market manager, Sara Potum, “is the heart and soul of the market, along with the vendors.” High praise, indeed.

Pittsfield

The farmers market in Pittsfield.

The farmers market in Pittsfield.

The Pittsfield farmers market, at the recently renovated Commons on First Street, opens on Saturday, May 13, and continues until October 14. The producer-only market is open from 9 to 1. There are about 25 vendors each week, some for the full season and others for a half season. Additionally, vendors can come in for a day. Market manager Jess Vecchia says that most of the farm vendors are there for the full season. Farmers come from within a 100-mile radius. Like many other markets, artisans are also part of the vendor mix. In addition to farm and food vendors, a variety of local organizations take part in the market. And if you show up between 11 and 1, you will be treated to live music. Vecchia points out that the market is an ideal place for shoppers to learn what is happening in Pittsfield.

“We have a lot of engaged volunteers,” says Vecchia. That is how they are able to do the “fun stuff,” such as seed start workshops, chef demonstrations, and pumpkin painting. Taft Farm from Great Barrington donates pumpkins each year for children to decorate.

The market accepts SNAP, and is able to run a “double value” program paid for by grants and private funders. SNAP is a very important part of the Pittsfield market. Vecchia says the SNAP program helped them to grow the market and make it an accessible and affordable market.

The Pittsfield market also runs a monthly indoor market from November-April at the Boys and Girls Club at Zion Church on First Street.

Sheffield 

The venerable Sheffield farmers market, opened originally in 2001, is set to open its seventeenth season on Friday, May 26 at 3 p.m. The market closes at 6:30, making it convenient for weekenders to shop. The market continues on Fridays through October 6.

BeetsAs of April 20, there were ten vendors, but recruitment continues. “We’ll be getting more every week,” reports Ed Hotaling, market manager and vendor since 2014. Hotaling notes that the market includes both farmers and crafters. “Our market is host to anyone who produces locally,” he says.

Last year’s market averaged about 100 shoppers per week. Hotaling is hoping that market attendance will grow this season. You can buy fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, maple syrup, jams, preserves, honey, and more, all grown or produced locally. The Sheffield farmers market enjoys strong support from the town’s businesses, an enunciation of the market’s importance to the town.

West Stockbridge 

The West Stockbridge farmers market is set to open on Thursday, May 18 at 3 p.m. The market runs for four hours each Thursday, and will close on October 5. A popular feature of this market is the music. Go to the market’s website to find out which musicians will be playing when you plan to attend.

Food available at the market includes vegetables, cheese, flowers, herbs, wine, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, sea salt, perennials, salads, wool, berries, mushrooms, sauces, baklava, garlic, medicinal plants, tote bags and t-shirts.

While at the market, do yourself a favor and head over to the Turn Park Art Space, a new sculpture garden on Harris Street on the Merritt Green.

Williamstown

The Williamstown Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturdays from May 20 to October 14. The market was founded in 1981, making it one of the oldest in the county. It hosts 30 vendors, most of whom are farmers. But there also are chefs with prepared food, and crafters.

Farmers offer a large variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, flowers and herbs both dried and fresh. If you are hungry and cannot wait to get home to make something with your purchases, find the chefs on hand making goodies with locally sourced ingredients. Think gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, prepared Greek entrees and pastries, and the like. New this year is a local pastry chef, meaning you can have dessert for breakfast if you’re so inclined.

Roger the Jester entertains children visiting the Great Barrington Farmers Market. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Roger the Jester entertains children visiting the Great Barrington Farmers Market. Photo: Terry Cowgill

In addition to farmers and chefs, there are crafters who sell their locally grown and made wares. Check out a woodworker who uses locally sourced trees to make bowls; fiber artisans offering basketry, weaving, and knitting; and others selling jewelry and pottery. Anne Hogeland, market manager, reports that one local crafter takes local one step further by making candleholders and the like from local stone.

Aside from the buzz made by shoppers and vendors, live music is provided by instrumental fiddles and guitars. As Hogeland says, “the musicians provide appropriate background music for our audience.” That audience includes hundreds of visitors drawn to Williamstown by its two major cultural attractions, the Clark Museum and the Williamstown Theatre.

While at the market, you can eat what you just bought at picnic tables conveniently located in the shade. These tables were provided by grants from the town, a financial recognition of the wide range of benefits provided by its farmers market.


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2 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Ginny Willcox says:

    Somehow your list of Farmers Markets didn’t include beautiful downtown Lee! Their Farmers Market will be back on the town green Saturdays from 10-2 starting May 27.

  2. Judith Lerner says:

    Laurily, this is a terrific article. So full of useful detail. It makes me want to shop at ALL of them!

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