It was cool and overcast Sunday as the Madison Farmers’ Market came together at the Main Street Park in Madison. Fine friends I had scarcely seen since our last winter market back in December, cars and trucks loaded with wares, gear and market-equipment, some with their children in tow. Winter is finally over and spring has come to our part of the world.
There are always a few kinks to work out on the first market of the season. I was still working 4 shifts a week at Johnny’s and then picked up an extra, so market preparations at Runamuk were somewhat sporadic. I spent my Saturday evening wrapping soap and labeling salves, and still wound up running around like a chicken with my head cut off on Sunday morning because I hadn’t had time to gather all of my market-equipment beforehand.
If you’ve never vended at an outdoor event, you might not realize all of the supplies and equipment you need to have with you. Lots of little things like: duct tape, twine or rope, ink pens, chalk, a first-aid kit. Big things like: a folding table, a tent, signs. And don’t forget about yourself─always bring water and snacks or food of some sort, and dress appropriately for the weather.
And if you’re bringing children along that’s a whole separate bucket of worms!
This is the Madison market’s 4th season. We’re still a small market, with just 7 vendors. But we’ve got a really nice group of dedicated people working to bring local food and products to the community. The farmers who make up the Madison Farmers’ Market are: Josh Magoon of Willow Lane Farm in Harmony, Sonia and Jeff of Hide-and-Go-Peep Farm in East Madison, Maria Reynolds of Yellow Place Bakehouse in Solon, Mike Bowman of Groundswell Seed Farm in Embden, Crymson Sullivan of Sidehill Farm in Madison, and Pete and Carol Vigneault of P & C Pottery in Madison. Oh─and don’t forget me!
Our market is held on Sundays because we didn’t want to try to compete with the larger and much more established Skowhegan Farmers’ Market, which has been held on Saturdays for nearly twenty years in the next town over. We’ve found that 10-2 works well for us, and despite some initial misgivings about our chosen day of the week, we’ve developed a regular following of shoppers committed to buying fresh produce and products from Madison-area farmers.
These farmers have come out in rain and snow, cold and wind to be at market to offer their wares to the community of Madison. They get up early to harvest vegetables, or stay up late packaging seeds; for those with livestock on their farms it takes a fair amount of planning and preparation to be able to leave the farm to spend half the day at market. That involves making sure all critters are fed and watered, and that they’re safely secured to be left unattended for hours on end. These are just some of the things farmers have to deal with to bring their goods to you at the farmers’ market.
We’re at market to sell our wares, yes─payday comes once a week and farming is serious business; farmers have bills too. Yet the paycheck is only one of the reasons that motivates farmers to do what they do. Farming is the purest form of activism; farmers are committed to improving their communities through food, to improving the environment through farming. And through the relationships we nurture at market we can affect some measure of change in our community. We can educate the public about vegetables and food, and be the link that people need in order to fully understand what good food is, how to cook it, preserve it, and appreciate it.
So there were a few kinks at market our first Sunday back…I didn’t realize until I was loading the car that the cement blocks I usually haul along to weight down my tent at market I’d absconded with for the beehives last fall. And in my frenzy of preparations and stresses at Runamuk, I’d forgotten to prepare a SNAP shopping sheet for our market’s SNAP program. Thanks to the efforts of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, Harvest Bucks program allows our market to offer bonus dollars to SNAP shoppers, which can be used for fresh fruits and veggies at market. We made-do, though, and had our first SNAP shopper of the season come through the market. Yay!
Stay tuned for another action-packed season!