Farmers markets alive and thriving in Franklin County
By ANITA FRITZ, Staff Writer, The Recorder, September 18, 2019
It used to be if someone wanted fresh fruits or vegetables, they had to visit their local grocery store. If they were lucky, they lived near a farm that sold its produce and products on the farm.
By the mid-19th century, though, that changed — farmers markets began to pop up. Organizers, many farmers themselves, would find a venue, choose a day and time, and then invite farmers to participate.
Farmers would pack up their vehicles with vegetables and fruits, set up their table or tent, and then spend two or three hours selling their goods while they caught up with other farmers, as well as their customers. State statistics indicate that the number of farmers markets in Massachusetts has tripled since 2004. Today, there are more than 300 across the state.
Claire Morenon, communications manager for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which provides resources for starting and sustaining farmers markets, said that while national statistics show the number of farmers markets has leveled off, the farmers markets in Franklin County are healthy and seem to be doing well.
“People seem to like their farmers markets here,” she said.
Over the years, farmers markets have evolved, and today, you can find everything from leafy greens, carrots and root vegetables to honey, maple syrup, meat, dairy and so much more, including arts and crafts.
Many local farmers, especially dairy farmers, have said they’ve had to diversify by planting and selling crops, opening farm stands and food or ice cream stands, and participating in farmers markets to supplement their incomes and keep their farms alive.
In the early days, customers paid cash for their purchases, but today, they can use credit cards, debit cards, SNAP/ EBT (formerly food stamps) and HIP (Healthy Incentive Program) benefits. According to CISA, there are currently farmers markets in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Shutesbury, Orange, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Bernardston, Charlemont, Northfield, Conway and Wendell. They are held on different days and at different times. To view a full list of local farmers markets, visit bit.ly/ 2mdbbdH. Anita Fritz is senior reporter at the Greenfield Recorder. She began working there in 2002. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413772-0261, ext. 269.