Campus File Photo/ Benjy Renton
The beloved Middlebury Farmers Market turns 45 this summer, and it’s sharing its birthday present with the whole community. Along with its usual array of locally sourced fruits, vegetables, baked goods and crafts, this year the market is vying to serve as more than just the best source for fresh baked bread and in-season berries. Starting with its grand opening for the outdoor summer season on Saturday, May 11 at the VFW Post on Exchange Street, it will also be teaming up with local organizations, non-profits, musicians and new vendors in an effort to connect every corner of the community.
“Our theme for this year is to make the market a destination,” said Middlebury Farmers Market President Elisabeth Woronzoff. “The whole purpose of the farmers market is to provide a positive investment for the community.”
Although the Middlebury Farmers Market operates year-round, the indoor winter market usually sees 10 to 12 vendors and offers mainly dairy, meat, eggs and wool. In the summer, the number of vendors swells to between 30 and 40 as it continues to offer winter items while adding fresh produce, plants and flowers among a growing list of other locally produced goods.
Right beside these vendors will be booths set up for area non-profit organizations to raise awareness for their causes and connect with Middlebury residents. The market is also starting a new initiative with the Ilsley Public Library, which plans to set up a booth allowing shoppers to check out and return books on site. The books offered will all pertain to the market, including subjects like gardening, the food industry, food waste and healthy recipes.
“What this demonstrates is the versatility of the market,” Woronzoff said. “The Middlebury Farmers Market is small but nimble, so we can adapt and try new things.”
New vendors will also enter the scene for the upcoming summer, including Green & Gold CSA, a community agricultural program that will serve as the market’s only 100% organic produce vendor. The market will also welcome Triple K Farm for meats, honeys and syrups, as well as Marguerite’s Flower Garden and herbal remedies producer Breathing in Wellness.
The market is working on initiatives to reduce food waste and increase composting as well. “It’s super cool,” Woronzoff said. “I’m excited about it.”
Despite these shiny new additions, the market’s foundation is still grounded in its long-term vendors. The oldest returning farmer is Joan Cook of South Hardscrabble Farm in Bristol, who has sold vegetables, berries, sweet corn and baked goods at the Middlebury Farmers Market for over 30 years. Sharon Kerwin of Orange Cat Soaps in Cornwall and Violet LaFountain of Ledge Hill Farm in Weybridge have both also sold at the market for over 15 years.
“They’re so committed to contributing positively through food or culture to the local economy,” said Woronzoff of these vendors. “They are awesome, awesome members of the farmers market community.”
The market is also planning to continue its tradition of live music, which plays from open to close, beginning with local musician PapaGreyBeard who will appear at the grand opening. Another musician who will be featured later in the season is Middlebury College student Aidan O’Brien ’20, who began playing guitar and singing for the farmers market in fall 2018.
“I love it,” said O’Brien. “I like that it’s really relaxed.” He will be performing at the upcoming summer market on June 15 and July 27, and he’s looking forward to doing farmers market shows again. “I think they’re good for working out new originals and covers I haven’t tried before because I get to play for the whole time the market’s going on,” he said, adding that he also likes them because vendors will sometimes give him free vegetables.
Market tradition will continue this year with the annual celebration of Dairy Day, to be scheduled for June, which is a Vermont initiative to honor dairy farmers and their products. Along with fundraisers and informative booths about the dairy industry, there will also be free samples of chocolate milk and other products.
The market has added two new celebrations as well, beginning with Red, White & Blue day around the Fourth of July. Later in the summer, the market will host First Responders Day, dedicated to honoring the efforts of first responders within the community.
Besides branching out for the market’s 45th year, these new additions are also efforts to curtail the downward attendance trend that the market has seen over the last eight summers. Last year’s move from its downtown-proximate location at Marble Works to the less walkable Exchange Street VFW Post hasn’t helped.
“Some people aren’t happy with it because it physically took the market out of the community,” Woronzoff explained. “That’s another reason we’re really trying to make community involvement a huge piece this year – to kind of bridge that space.”
Nonetheless, the Middlebury Farmers Market is resilient, and everyone is looking forward to the summer. “There’s this sort of leisurely joy to the summer market,” said Woronzoff, emphasizing her zeal for local food. “What can’t you love about that?”