FARMINGTON – Two popular farmers’ markets have merged, seeking to connect people with locally-produced food while taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Farmington typically hosts markets Friday, on Front Street across from the Better Living Center, and on Saturday, in the parking lot of the district court building on Main Street. Until this year, market manager Eric Haywood said, those markets operated as separate entities with their own insurance policies and agreements to secure space. Combining the market, Haywood said, would allow for more streamlined management, eliminate some of those redundant costs and hopefully draw more vendors and customers.
The market opened in May with roughly a dozen vendors offering everything from vegetables to fresh baked goods to locally-sourced meats. People may not be aware of other items offered through the market, Haywood said, including processed food such as maple syrup, jams and herbal rubs or seedlings and cut flowers.
“People love to get to know where their food comes from,” Haywood said. “A certain level of trust is there. Even through a mask, there’s a face behind the food.”
The markets take place in open air, Haywood noted, and vendors have adapted to recommendations and requirements relating to the pandemic by creating a more structured layout that encourages customers to approach stands from the front. Signage acquired from the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets will be used to reinforce the importance of various safe practices, such as encouraging social distancing and face coverings, but Haywood said that customers had generally been supportive from the beginning.
“Our shoppers have been very good about that,” she said.
A hand washing station has been donated by Haywood’s business, LoveGrown LLC, providing water and locally-made soap provided by Cedar Post Farms. Maine-made sanitizer will also be available.
The Farmington Farmers’ Market will once again be offering the Maine Harvest Bucks program at the farmers’ market on Saturdays. For every SNAP dollar spent at the market, recipients will receive a matching Maine Harvest Buck to be spent on fruits and vegetables. SNAP eligible items include meat, eggs, dairy, bread, fruits and vegetables, and seedlings.
“Many of our shoppers use their SNAP dollars on meat, bread and eggs,” said market vendor Erica Emery of Rustic Roots Farm, “and then they use their Maine Harvest Bucks to buy fruits and vegetables.”
The Maine Harvest Bucks are accepted at the farmers’ market from now until Thanksgiving.
“We had one customer save up their Maine Harvest Bucks until September and then bought an entire crate of paste tomatoes from us to make sauce for the winter,” said Emery.
The Maine Harvest Bucks program is supported by the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, and the Farmington Farmers’ Market. If you are interested in volunteering at the Maine Harvest Bucks info booth at the market, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The market does accept credit and debit cards, Haywood noted, through a partnership with United Way of the Tri-Valley Area.
Friday’s market is held at 198 Front Street, across from the Better Living Center. Hours of operation run from 9 to 12:30 p.m.
Saturday’s market is held at 129 Main Street, in the District Courthouse parking lot, from 9 a.m. to noon.
The markets are always looking for additional vendors, with a per diem system available for businesses that may want to participate for a weekend or two. Anyone interested in selling their goods at the market should contact Haywood at 778-1181 or by emailing her at email@example.com