A new farmers’ market has been proposed in my local community, and I have stepped up to take on organization of this project.
The town of Madison sits adjacent to my hometown of Anson, directly across the Kennebec River. While the people of Anson and Madison may not necessarily share a love for one another, the two communities are reliant on each other whether they like it or not.
Madison and Anson are unique in the state of Maine, in that they are the only towns to share a water supply and a waste treatment facility. This means that both the towns are supporting these facilities with their tax dollars. Their economies are tightly intertwined, with many Ansonites spending their money in Madison, and some Madisonians making their way across the bridge to shop in Anson.
Once a productive mill and factory community, Madison has been working hard over the last decade to reinvent itself as a good place to do business and raise a family. This year they’ve established the new Common Vision Committee, which has been meeting every month to outline a proposed agenda for local economic development over the next 5 years or so.
With an eye toward the future of Runamuk, I’ve recently taken an interest in the local politics of Anson and Madison. The long-term goal is to establish Runamuk as a pollinator conservation center–where we not only offer native perennials for pollinator plantings, as well as annual vegetables and flowers (all grown in our hoop-houses and nurseries without the use of pesticides, of course)–but we will offer public education about the importance of pollinators. I envision extensive gardens that the public can explore along trails that will take them through various types of pollinator habitats, and they can learn about native pollinators and how the entire ecosystem is dependant upon these tiny creatures. There will be picnic tables, and an outdoor learning center here we will hold workshops and host school children and their families. Runamuk will be a go-to conservation center drawing in tourists from all over the state of Maine, but also from all over the northeast.
In addition to this, since we strive to lead and preach sustainable living, we intend to raise brush-and-bramble fed goats’ meat, grass-fed sheep and rabbits’ meat, pastured chickens and eggs.
It may take me a lifetime, but Runamuk will some day play an important role in the local economies of Anson and Madison. And that is why I’ve recently taken on the role of coordinator of the new Madison Farmers’ Market.
A farmers’ market adds value to a town
Studies show that shoppers are more likely to buy from nearby small businesses once they have made the trek downtown to visit the farmers’ market.
The festive fair atmosphere created by an outdoor market helps to build community, as well as enhancing the town’s quality of life through promotion of healthy eating and lifestyle.
More small businesses and families are attracted to towns boasting a farmers’ market because the local economy is supported when residents shop at their local farmers’ market.
Finally–a local farmers’ market offers the town some food security, since it is not trucked in from thousands of miles away. And having a market encourages more locals to take up the calling of farming to produce more food for their community.
If you build it, they will come
An attempt to establish a farmers’ market was made a couple of years back, when a few local farmers gathered in the shadow of the ancient school building adjacent the junior high on main street. Apparently those farmers did not gain many customers, and the market ceased to exist after just one season.
My thought is that it may take more than one season to really establish a market in a town. It’s also possible that the attempted market two years ago did not have the support they needed.
I’m hoping that the people of Madison/Anson are ready this time around to make their farmers’ market successful. I’ve been scouring the internet, pouring over resources offered by the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, outlining a plan for the organization of the establishment of the new market.
The old school building that once cast a shadow on that first farmers’ market has recently been removed, and the town of Madison has replaced it with a spot that is an ideal venue to create a market that will entice locals to stop in. The town has even slated some funding to help the market get off the ground, which to me signifies a change in local attitudes toward the market. Perhaps the people of Madison and Anson, and their surrounding communities, are ready for the market now.
With a couple of volunteers that are as gung-ho as I am to get a market going, and ideas for a petting zoo, a facebook fan page, and a market website–just to name a few–I feel confident that we can really make something special for our community. That in turn, will create the support that local farmers need to commit themselves to the townspeople, which will lead to a successful farmers’ market for the Madison-Anson communities.
An initial meeting to lay the groundwork for the new market is being held at the Old Point School on Old Point Avenue in Madison, on Wednesday July 17th at 7pm. I’ve contacted a number of area farmers, posted on facebook, and the town of Madison will advertise the event on their new digital sign on Maine Street. With only one or two firm commitments for vendors I’m still searching for farmers to participate–if you know a farmer who might be interested please pass along my contact info!
Stay tuned folks!