Local Artisan Goods Shine at Middlebury’s Holiday Farmers’ Market


MIDDLEBURY — An eclectic collection of everything from handcrafted earrings, ceramic mugs and goat’s milk soap to homemade granola, pastries and maple syrup drew a bustling crowd to the Middlebury Farmers’ Market’s annual Holiday and Indoor Market at Mary Hogan School this past Saturday. 

Each year, at the beginning of December, members of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market and the local community come together to bring the best local products to the town. Due to the extended hours, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., many who would not typically be able to make it to the normal Middlebury Farmers’ Market can attend. 

“They don’t have to worry about traffic, parking and limited hours that are associated with most Farmers’ Markets,” explained Wendy-Ann Dorkee, one of the vendors. “You’ll even get people from Orwell,” she added. 

The Holiday Market has been held at Mary Hogan for the past five years. “All the vendors love it at the school because there’s plenty of space,” said Lauren Slayton, who sold items at the market from Breadloaf Kitchen. Slayton has been a member of the Farmers’ Market for eight years and the Holiday Market for even longer. Many customers came up to her table knowing exactly what they wanted — one man even put four pastries on reserve until his wife came with some money. 

“Members have until the end of October to decide if they want to participate, and after that deadline the registration becomes open to the public,” Sharon Kerwin, the Middlebury Farmers’ Market treasurer, explained of the Holiday Market’s selection process. “Then, we see who returns each year and give them priority.” 

The general accessibility of this registration process contributes greatly to the community of the Holiday Market. Essentially anyone who wants to participate can, regardless of the product that they would like to sell; those who attend consistently are valued and thus are saved a spot each year. 

In general, the Holiday Market is known to be more crafty than the typical Farmers’ Market due to the diverse array of products and people participating. This year, many booths were dedicated to creative jewelry, including rings made out of repurposed spoons, Christmas-ornament earrings and crafted wooden necklaces and rings. 

“There’s such an eclectic selection of items for sale. You could come in thinking you were just going to buy maple syrup and then come out with Christmas-ornament earrings,” said Julia Goydan ’22, holding up her most recent purchase. Wendel M. Jacobs, the mastermind behind Goydan’s new jewelry, also sold an array of meticulously crafted earrings — not just holiday-themed.

A wreathed sign thanks shoppers for staying local.

The night before the event, all the vendors come in to decorate and set up their booths. “It’s a process,” said Cindy, one vendor at the market, who sold Vermont maple syrup in containers of all shapes and sizes. “People like me don’t have as easy … a time bringing in all their products. I have to haul all my containers of syrup in, and it’s really heavy compared to the jewelry vendors.” 

She also explained that it’s really a guessing game when it comes to figuring out how much maple syrup is too much and how much is enough, because any given year varies in how much product one might sell. The work pays off for the vendors, though, as hordes of families and college students come through the doors. One vendor described the feeling of someone buying their product as a rush of excitement and validation for the work they put into it.

All in all, an event like this one is important for the town of Middlebury because it brings everyone together and gets them in the holiday spirit, while simultaneously supporting local businesses and vendors. “The Holiday Market really helps the crafters,” Kerwin said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things that start this time of year in Middlebury, one of them being Very Merry Middlebury.” 

The live music at the market contributes to this holiday cheer. Each time the doors to the market were opened, music poured out. A group of three musicians playing the hammered dulcimer, celtic harp and a variety of recorders shared Christmas and Hanukkah songs in a far corner.

“The way I celebrate Christmas is by playing music, and I love to share that with others,” said Linda, one of the musicians. 

If you missed the Holiday Market this year and are looking for other holiday events, there will be a harpist and Santa Claus at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Dec. 22 at the VFW at 530 Exchange St.