South Hadley Farmers’ Market at Risk of Ending

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 16, 2017, by

The town’s farmers market may come to an end if a group of energetic volunteers isn’t found before the end of January.

The Healthy Community South Hadley Board, which organizes the market, sent out a notice Jan. 3 about the situation.

“Due to a range of work and personal commitments in the upcoming year, our current Healthy Community South Hadley (HCSH) Board members feel they do not have adequate time to devote to ensuring a successful farmers’ market this coming year,” the board wrote.

Sarah Etelman, who serves on the board as well as the South Hadley Select Board, said being a member of the HCSH is a big commitment.

“This is a very hands-on board. We volunteer. We do the fundraising. We do the treasury work,” Etelman said. “Those of us who have been doing it for all these years just don’t have what it takes to make it a good market.”

The seasonal market, hosted weekly on the town commons from first week of June through first week of October, has had eight seasons. Etelman said it began as the idea of former local resident Ann Pemberton, who recognized a need for a farmers market.

When Pemberton began making preparations to move, Etelman said a steering committee was formed to help manage and continue the market.

Eventually, a market manager was hired and took over the responsibility of recruiting vendors and day-to-day accounting, according to Etelman.

Board member Cindy Pyle has been with the market since its inception with Pemberton. She said Pemberton has been an inspiration and the board has tried to carry on what she started.

“It just has been a wonderful thing to work, a wonderful organization to work on,” Pyle said.

To keep the market going, the board wrote, a new group of board members is needed, “including but not necessarily entirely limited to South Hadley residents with a clear plan for a successful Market in an accessible public space in South Hadley.”

“We really hope that there is somebody or a group of people that are interested in taking this over,” Etelman said. “We are not making this decision lightly. We have all invested a great deal of energy into having a vibrant market and we want to see it succeed.”

The current board is willing help orient and transition new members. Board responsibilities will include officer positions in the established non-profit organization, including president, secretary and treasurer, as well as coordinating social media and hiring a new market manager no later than March.

“It’s been great for South Hadley. (The market) makes the town look festive on market days,” Pyle said. “It’s been wonderful. We have a lot of loyal customers — hoping some of the loyal customers might say ‘hey, I want to keep this going.’ There is still time.”

Those interested in becoming part of the board as well as the leadership and management group for the market should contact the board by email at prior to Jan. 31.

If a response from people committed to continuing the market in an “appropriate public space” is not received by the deadline, the board will take steps to close down the organization, according to the letter.

On Friday, Etelman said a few people have reached out but all have withdrawn after receiving some of the paperwork about the commitment involved. Even so, Etelman said it had been heartening to see there had been a response from the community that they value the market.

Emily Cutts can be reached at