There are less than 4 weeks to go before the Wakefield Farmers Market launches its 9th season of bringing local farm fare, specialty foods, and artisan products to Hall Park (next to Veterans Field) each weekend from mid-June to mid-October! This year the market will be held on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. starting June 17 through October 14, 2017.
FYI: The Los Sugar Kings Duo, upper right in the collage, will be with us July 29!
We’ll have updates and/or farmers market-related information in upcoming emails and web posts in the upcoming weeks, but, today I wanted to share the column I recently wrote for the Wakefield Daily Item. I decided to use my Friday 5/19 column space to present a history of our market, as well as information about what defines a farmers market, how they benefit their communities, and a Q&A regarding some of the guidelines followed by most farmers markets across the USA and Canada.
Here is the bulk of it with some additions and adaptations:
To start: The mission of the Wakefield Farmers Market (WFM) is to provide locally grown produce and help local farms remain vibrant, as well as promote our town as a cultural arts, recreation, and dining destination so as to bring more business activity to our town, and bring neighbors together to commune and share resources.
Wakefield Farmers Market (WFM), which held its first season in the summer of 2009, was conceived of and created by the Wakefield Initiative, an informal group of residents committed to improving the quality of life in Wakefield. A big thank you to Bill Chetwyn, who is also a long-time WFM volunteer, Anthony Guardia, and Kevin Piskadlo for spearheading the Wakefield Initiative!
Because there is income involved via vendor fees, sponsorships, and, if a nonprofit, grants and donations, a farmers market needs to be a legally recognized entity, whether it be a sole proprietorship, a corporation of some sort, a nonprofit organization, or a program of a nonprofit organization. In addition, it needs insurance, which is provide to us, along with A LOT of advice and support, from Mass Farmers Markets.
Wakefield Climate Action Project (WCAP) a local 501 (c) (3) organization that addresses environmental issues, agreed to adopt the newly forming WFM as one of its projects since efforts supporting local farmers and shopping locally fall within its mission statement.
Wakefield Initiative members Maura Racamato and Kelli Stromski were the Co-Market Managers during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and, thanks to them, WFM is a popular destination for shoppers and vendors alike. Because I, as a co-founder of WCAP, had already been taking care of the financial and legal end during the first two years, Kelli and Maura thought it made sense to ask me if I could take on the role of Market Manager in 2011 when life changes meant they were not able to continue as managers.
For those not familiar with the Wakefield Initiative, it was a small group of folks whose mission was to implement innovative programs that would positively impact the financial position of the community while also adding to the quality of life within the community, with “making Wakefield a better place to live” a key parameter. A big thank you to Bill Chetwyn, who is also a long-time WFM volunteer, Anthony Guardia, and Kevin Piskadlo for spearheading the Wakefield Initiative!
Given that they brought us the canoe and kayak rental on Lake Quannapowitt and the December Holiday Stroll, the latter now a project of the Wakefield Events Planning Committee, along with our farmers market, I would say they succeeded in their mission!
Now we get to the “What is the definition and mission of a farmers market” part. Here are the minimum qualifications for a Massachusetts Farmers’ Market as deemed by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR):
Two or more farmers primarily selling products grown, produced, or raised by the farmers. The market has set hours of operation and operates on a regular schedule. The products are clearly labeled as to origin. The market complies with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations The market must have, and abide by, a set of rules that governs the operation of the market and, at a minimum, assures the primary purpose of a Massachusetts Farmers’ Market as providing a direct marketing opportunity for Massachusetts farmers, foresters and fisheries and addresses the following:
o Terms and conditions of sales, including pricing and labeling
o Vendor eligibility and product source
o Compliance by all vendors with local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
Now, here is the more friendly, but still accurate definition of a farmers market from the Farmers Market Coalition: “A farmers market is a public and recurring assembly of farmers or their representatives selling the food that they produced directly to consumers.”
They continue with “What is at market depends on a combination of location, season, and market rules about what can be sold. Many farmers markets only carry locally-grown, locally-made and/or locally-processed foods, [while many also feature local artisans, as well] and create a system of guidelines that ensure vendors are producing what they are selling.”
So, how does a farmers market help a community? Beyond bringing just-picked produce and creating a pleasant place to shop or just hang out, numerous studies have determined that communities benefit in a number of ways by hosting a farmers market, including increasing traffic to local storefronts, albeit it is apt to take place at a higher rate when the market is directly in the downtown area. But, regardless of the specific location, if the market is successful, which ours is, it helps make a community a “destination location.”
Fun fact: I know of more than a few people who had “town has a farmers market” as a criteria when searching to purchase a new home. Also, according to Kelli Stromski, many current listings on Zillow mention our market as positive feature of our community.
Farmer’s markets, including ours, also benefit the community by providing a free spot for charitable groups to highlight their good works, and provide a valuable venue for the Board of Health to provide flu shots and important information, as well as for groups such as Wakefield Main Streets to highlight all the good things in our downtown area and beyond.
And, while I have yet to find a person or group to take over the “Wakefield Presents” spot that we hosted in 2015 to promote cultural arts in our town, or to take on my idea of a spot that is hosted by, and thus highlights a different merchant each week but that always offers coupons and flyers from any business wanting to participate.
As noted above, farmers markets have rules and guidelines beyond those set by their state and the USDA. As do most, ours includes the “make, bake, or grow it yourself” rule. Why? Because it is all about local and buying direct from the person, or someone hired directly by the person to sell at the market, who has grown or produced the product. That is what folks across the USA and Canada expect to find at a farmers market.
There are also guidelines that makes good business sense, such as not saturating the market with a vendor type and being loyal to current vendors, both critical to a successful market that will support as many farmers as possible. For, bottom line, while a successful farmers market greatly benefits a community, it is all about the farmers. And we are lucky to have some great farmers!
Before we go on, don’t forget:
Volunteers ALWAYS welcome and needed!
NOTE: Potential volunteers are always welcome to “shadow” a volunteer doing a task you are interested in learning how to do before you sign up for a market day volunteer spot next year.
Thanks to all who took the time to vote via the American Farmland Trust Annual Farmers Market Celebration last season!!! Our farmers market came in 1st in Massachusetts and #22 nationally in the “People’s Choice” and “Pillar of the Community” categories!! For more information, see :markets.farmland.org
As always, along with accepting credit and debit cards, we also proudly welcome SNAP/EBT transactions in exchange for “Market Bucks.” Our market continues to match SNAP/EBT purchases up to $10 per visit so all of our neighbors can afford to eat healthy local foods. Just stop by the Market Manager Tent to get your Market Bucks. Check back for updates on the new HIP program, brought to you by the USDA and being implemented this summer in Massachusetts.
The Wakefield Farmers Market runs RAIN OR SHINE (except in dangerous weather, e.g. lightning or hurricane conditions). Our next summer season will run from June 17 through October 14, 2017. Please look around this website for a complete listing of vendors and upcoming events and to sign up for the email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler! See you at the Market!Wendy Dennis