It was a long struggle this summer searching for an indoor venue for the Madison Farmers’ Market to move to once the weather turned cold. This is my third year as manager of our budding market and I’m learning to allow plenty of time for planning and promoting events, so I started on the project back in June, broaching the subject with the vendors who make up the Madison market. Collectively we were in agreement that extending our market into the winter was something we were keen on, so long as we didn’t have to suffer through the cold outdoors. We may be farmers, but we have limits too!
And I set about my grand search for a location for the prospective winter market. The ideal spot would be somewhere right in the heart of town where locals would easily see our signs and be able to get to us. A number of our patrons are elderly so we wanted to be able to accommodate them; and of course parking was a consideration too.
After a couple of dead-ends and false-starts I was beginning to get discouraged, when we were granted permission to use the cafeteria at the Madison Junior High, which is directly across the street from the park where we set up all summer. Other than the institutional-vibe that the school gives off, it was a good location and the arragement suited the market well.
You may dismiss my comment regarding the “vibe” of the location as inconsequential, but it’s the same with any first impression. The vibe, or the gut-reaction that people get from a new place, business, or house and the people therein plays a significant role in whether or not they return. And I know the vibe that my market exudes is up-beat and optimistic, open and honest, a testament to our vendor’s dedications to local food and farms─it’s only natural that we should find a location that reflects that kind of vibe.
Well at the last minute one of my false-starts had a change of heart, and we were able to work out an agreement with the Somerset Abbey, which was our first-choice. Hooray!
This past Sunday was the first of our 5 winter markets─running every other Sunday through to Christmas. Our hosts at the Somerset Abbey collaborated with us to incorporate some craft vendors, and they launched an advertising campaign that included a radio ad, a posting in the local Somerset Express paper, as well as online via social networks. Of course we shared the details on our own facebook fanpage and through the fanpages of our prospective farms to spread the word.
On hand the vendors had locally produced chicken, duck, beef, pork, seasonable vegetables (like squashes, potatoes, leeks and kale─even some tomatoes!), garlic, seed garlic and a fabulous garlic dip, baked goods like bread and cookies, scones and muffins, and of course, Runamuk’s own fresh-eggs and beeswax soaps and salves.
There was some confusion unfortunately, due to our late change of venue, a few of our regular patrons went to the Jr High looking for us, but they managed to find us in the end and we were happy to see them! It’s that kind of commitment from a growing number of locals that keeps farmers like me and my market-peeps doing what we do.
The folks at the Abbey have committed themselves to all-things-local, local beers, local products, local music and artists, and they provided the Madison Farmers’ Market a warm, dry and clean location. Coffee, pie, soup and more were offered up, along with a few cafe tables for patrons to sit at and chat, eat or listen to the live music and the vibe was great. It’s an ideal alliance that I hope will further promote local products and food in Madison and it’s surrounding areas.
If you’re in the area, or will be passing though some Sunday between 11 and 2, the dates of our winter markets are November 8th and 22nd (the Sunday before Thanksgiving), and December 6th and 20th (the Sunday before Christmas). Drop in to see what’s available or what’s going on, and chat with some young Maine farmers over a cup of coffee, we’d be glad to see you!