BELLOWS FALLS — The Farmers Market has made a few shifts with its location over the years, and for 2016 organizers hope to make a central move.
Daniel Hartigan, the manager of Bellows Falls Farmers Market, says members of the Farmers Market Board are eyeing Hetty Green Park as a new spot that they believe will bring additional community and tourist participation.
"We'd now like to try Hetty Green Park, which is surrounded by schools and churches," said Hartigan. "The other location is by the train tracks, not where a lot of people are, and we really want to engage the community and kids and make it all the more accessible."
The Farmers Market has offered items from Vermont and New Hampshire that include organic vegetables, fruit, cheese, pork, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, maple syrup, honey, jellies, jams, breads, baked goods, flowers, prepared foods and more. For the past few years it has been held at the Waypoint Center. Last year it was held on Canal Street for the first four weeks the market was open, but Hartigan said some members of the community complained it took away parking needed for downtown businesses. The Farmers Market Board is making another stride to move back to a more central location in town as they feel the Waypoint Center is not as visible from town.
"This is me psychologically speaking, at the Waypoint Center it has felt like we're down under, that people have had to come down to us," said Sherri Hawkins, acting secretary and assisting manager of the Farmers Market Board. "There's nothing but us down there and some vendors have left because they've decided there's not enough business.
"When we heard the idea of Hetty Green Park, we just fell in love with it," said Hawkins.
Hetty Green Park is also where memorial ceremonies are held. The Veterans Memorial, dedicated in the 1920s, was moved there in the early 1960s. Hartigan noted that he would like to hear opinions from local veterans on their thoughts about using the park every Friday between May and October for the Farmers Market.
"We want to hear veterans' thoughts about this, we don't want to step on anyone's toes," said Hartigan.
The Farmers Market Board will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Windham Antiques to hear public comments on this issue. Once board members receive feedback from community members, they will bring their proposal to the joint Trustees and Select Board meeting on Tuesday, March 29.
The Farmers Market Board will need approval at the joint meeting before any moves can occur. Hartigan says they would like to propose three options. The first choice would be to have the market moved to Hetty Green Park; the second option would be to stay at the Waypoint Center but have some tents located on Canal Street; and the third is to stay at Waypoint Center. Hartigan mentioned that there may be other considerations after they hear opinions from citizens at Monday's meeting.
There were other factors aside from lack of visibility that Hartigan feels have slowed down sales at the Waypoint Center. He said the closing of the The Charles N. Vilas Bridge between Bellows Falls and North Walpole, New Hampshire may have been a hinderance. He also mentioned that a few years ago a farmers market started up in Walpole, New Hampshire that may have deterred folks from attending the one in Bellows Falls.
"Other towns are thriving and we hope to be a thriving one too, but we need the town's support," said Hartigan.
Hartigan said farmers markets are important because they help small businesses improve sales and they allow people to purchase high quality food directly from a farmer with whom they can build a relationship. And, most importantly in his opinion, farmers markets offer a spot for individuals to meet.
"It's a place for people to share a meal or hang-out. We want to provide a nice place for the community to gather," said Hartigan.
Hawkins says the hope is to have a Farmers Market kick-off this year on May 20 for the BF3F, which she says is a short abbreviation for the third Friday in Bellows Falls, a time when gallery walk has been held. The Farmers Market typically operates May through October.
Hartigan says the Farmers Market Board hopes to include a different non-profit organization each week and generally would like to collaborate with different local entities. The Farmers Market has been in cooperation with WOOL Radio and would like to maintain that connection and expand this year as well.
Items at the Farmers Market can be purchased by cash, EBT or debit card. The Bellows Falls Farmers Market also offers Crop Cash, a double value coupon that is run by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Folks with EBT cards can use this card, which will double their money at the farmers market. Hartigan says Crop Cash encourages the support of local farmers and keeping money local by giving rights to the farmer. Crop Cash coupons are limited to fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275