Farmer’s markets, one of the oldest forms of direct marketing, go back to ancient times. Throughout history, it was the preferred way to shop and in many countries, there is still a market day. In this country, in the last decade, there’s been a tremendous increase in the popularity of sustainable farming and locally grown produce. The 14th-annual Westerly Land Trust Farmers Market has expanded, from its humble beginnings, to become a popular weekly ritual for many in our community.
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Meg Lee, Westerly Land Trust’s Conservation Programs Manager, spoke of the increased interest.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot more market vendors. I think people in Westerly are excited to have an opportunity to purchase locally grown food right in town. The farmer’s all have a passion for helping the environment by growing local food more sustainably, with less impact on the Earth,” she said. “We are happy to support all the young up and coming farmers and the market is a great way to do that.”
The twelve local vendors at the market include Watch Hill Oysters, Wehpittituck Farm, Vesta Bakery, Fenner Ridge Farm, West Beach Farm, West Farm Organics, Vita Nova Compost, Teddy’s Griddle, Frontier Farm, Romanesco Farms, Wakin’ up Waggin’, and Echo Rock Flowers. I spoke with a few of the farmers.
Stephanie Bennett, of Echo Rock Flowers, is one of three farmers now calling the Land Trust’s new Barlow Preserve home. She spoke about how she started her new business.
“I started to realize I was the happiest when I was working in my garden. My mom mentioned to me what you ought to do is make a cutting garden. I didn’t even know what that was. As I was figuring out how to do it I was also realizing there is a market for it,” she said. “For people to be able to get a fresh bucket of blooms from me locally, the quality is better, the fragrance is better. It’s been fun to educate people and help everyone learn that local is better.”
“When I started people tried to stir me away from farming because they asked, ‘how you are going to make a living doing that?’ But it’s really kind of a calling, a lifestyle, I can work with my hands, I can care for the earth, and I can help to feed people,” she said. “Growing plants just really feeds my soul. It’s a passion. It’s our first time here ever and it’s great. The people here are super friendly and they’re excited to see us and we’re excited to see them.”
James Cruso of Vita Nova Composting is also at Barlow. His new subscription service takes your organic waste and turns it into rich compost.
“We need to take care of ourselves and provide for ourselves,” he said. “Growing your own food, being more sustainable with less impact on the earth and the environment, I think it’s all coming back to that. I see more young people getting involved.”
While visiting the various vendors if you feel the need for a morning pick-me-up you can grab some coffee or try out some Kombucha at Wakin’ up Waggin’. Owner Tim Lebling explained Kombucha to me.
“We have three flavors of local Kombucha which is a type of tea that has been fermented. This makes it a good source of probiotics which have many health benefits,” he said. “We have a ginger-turmeric today which is great for your joints, and a blueberry-ginger which is a wonderful flavor. We’ll be here every Thursday at the Farmer’s Market and we’re excited that it’s up and running again.”
A word of caution, don’t eat breakfast before you arrive. The enticing smells of breakfast will surely have you wishing, as I did, that you hadn’t eaten. Teddy’s Griddle is here. Theresa and Scott Chamberlin, from Charlestown, are whipping up their incredible breakfast sandwiches, steak sandwiches, hash, and salads.
“We cook everything right here on a griddle using local products, our greens are from Quonnie Farms, eggs are from Ever-Breeze Farm, our bread from Great Harvest, so we’re trying to support the community.”
Finally, I met Patty and Paul West of West Farm Organics. I asked Paul what made people want to go into farming.
“There’s a sense of serenity and peace with farming that keeps me in my place in the world. Nurturing the plants and animals is a big part of it. This is what I’m meant to do,” he said. “We see a lot more young people getting back to the land, growing their own food, being more sustainable, with less impact on the earth. I think it’s wonderful to see that.”
The Westerly Farmers Market runs every Thursday thru September 17, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Washington Trust Community Skating Center at 85 High Street.