“Summer is the season of motion.” – Henry Beston
As a farmer and a market vendor, and the Manager for Berkshire Grown’s Winter Farmers Markets – farmers markets are a big part of my life. I often wonder — what draws people to a farmers market? When I look around a busy market in summer, I see visitors being pulled in for many different reasons. Of course, there’s the food. Corn and tomatoes are finally here, along with sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, fresh greens, and so much more. Grab some of those veggies along with some locally-raised meat, maybe some bread and cheese for an appetizer – you’ve got yourself a meal. If you’re too hungry to wait until you get home, most markets can also feed you on the spot. Grilled sausages, dumplings, egg sandwiches, tacos – yes, please! Maybe you’re there to fill up your basket with fruit (that your kids will eat before you even get home – or is that just me?). You’re using SNAP and getting your dollars matched. You enjoy chatting with your favorite farmer and your neighbors. You like to sit and take in the live music. Or you love all of it, the combination of food, activities, and community.
I’m sure you don’t need reminding that we live in an area rich in farmers markets. You can visit one of the larger Saturday markets or pop into a smaller weekday venue. You can dash in and grab what you need or linger for hours, enjoying live music, kids’ activities, and more. Our local farmers markets have been full of unique activities this season. The Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market recently hosted a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by the Rooted Voyageurs. At the Bennington Farmers Market, recent events included book signings and readings by local authors, yoga classes, and a “Kids’ Market” where young entrepreneurs could sell their own products. Roots Rising’s teen-run Pittsfield Farmers Market held a Cupcake Showdown where local bakers entered their best cupcakes. The Sheffield Farmers Market celebrated “Zuke Fest”, including a zucchini car derby. The Great Barrington Farmers Market offered a kids’ cooking tent with free cooking lessons.
If you missed any of these happenings, you still have many opportunities to join the fun:
Roots Rising will feature another Cupcake Showdown this season, on October 8. Enter as a contestant or buy a judging ticket to weigh in on the cupcake offerings.
For those of you who love to bring your canine family members to the market, the Millerton Farmers Market will feature the Dog Days of Summer festival on August 20, including all sorts of activities for dogs and their humans. Free dog treats, veterinarian dog care advice, and even a dog/owner photo contest are on the schedule.
Some markets have recurring events to look forward to each week. The Roeliff Jansen Community Library brings its Farm Market Kids program to the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market each Saturday through September 3. The program features themed read-alouds, craft projects, and the chance for kids to earn Market Bucks. At the North Adams Farmers Market, visitors can drop off food scraps with Second Chance Composting to reduce food waste. And check your local market’s schedule for live music – many markets have a rotating selection of great local musicians.
Berkshire Farmers Markets work hard to make local food even more accessible across communities. Most area markets accept SNAP, either via the market as a whole or through individual vendors with eligible products. Many vendors at Massachusetts markets participate in the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which gives SNAP customers money back for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. And in the Berkshires, most markets also have some form of SNAP matching, helping customers make their SNAP dollars go farther.
Berkshire Grown and other organizations offer tools to help you find your local farmers markets and learn more about their events, vendors, and food access programs. Use the Food and Farms Map to find markets, farm stands, CSA farms, and more. The Berkshire Farmers Markets map shows farmers market locations., and the Berkshire Grown website can direct you to local markets that offer Market Match programs for SNAP. And – use the Eat Local MA app to help you find local food and farms when you’re on the go around the Commonwealth!
Read the entire August E-newsletter here. Image courtesy of Pittsfield Farmers Market.