Valley Bounty: South Hadley Farmers’ Market
Published Saturday June 10 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
The South Hadley Farmers Market is back, it’s different, and it’s bigger than ever.
By Jacob Nelson
FOR THE GAZETTE
This Wednesday will be the third time local farmers, artisans and food trucks gather in Buttery Brook Park from 2-6pm for the South Hadley Farmers’ Market, a family-friendly event that will continue weekly through mid-October. While an earlier iteration faded after 2018, this new market in a new location draws on considerable support from community members and businesses alike, who are excited to bring this hub of activity back to South Hadley.
At the center of this joyful chaos is market manager Jen Krassler, who shares what market attendees can expect on their first visit.
“The first thing you’ll notice is this market will be a lot larger,” she says. “We’ll have 15-20 vendors each week selling everything you’d look for in a grocery store – produce, bread, cheese, meat and all kinds of snacks – and most of the staple food vendors will be there every week. We’ll also have three local craft vendors each week who will rotate.”
Also in rotation are a cast of local food trucks, including Thai Chili Food Truck, Holyoke Hummus, and Island Spice Food Truck. One will be on hand each week to serve marketgoers and visitors to the park.
Meanwhile, relocation to Buttery Brook Park from the old location at the village commons will offer ample parking and more space for the market itself, as well as access to the park’s other amenities. “There are pickleball courts right there, and a playground around the corner from the market with a spray park that’s perfect for hot days,” offers Krassler. “Families can make a whole day out of a trip here.”
The advantages of this new market set up are especially clear to Krassler, who actually managed the previous South Hadley Farmers’ Market for a year in 2017. Her job and life eventually made that untenable, but several events paved the way for her return.
It began with her family’s move to South Hadley and her launch Flora and Fauna Farm soon after. “We’re a small, 2.5-acre permaculture farm growing a huge variety of things – fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, raising chickens for eggs,” she describes. “And for now, we only sell at farmers markets.”
That supplied a new perspective and link to the farmers market world, which was further strengthened when she then took a job co-managing the established Easthampton Farmers’ Market, a position she continues to hold.
“Running Easthampton helped me figure out what I needed to get the South Hadley Farmers’ Market going,” Krassler says. “I had connections with vendors, I had the experience, I was farming in town, and it just all came together.”
An experienced manager certainly helps, but running a successful farmers market takes a team. Krassler is supported by three volunteer market coordinators: Chelsea Beaudry of Sweet Baboo’s Granola in South Hadley, Heather Gagne of Cherished Cookie Creations in Chicopee, and Clarissa Lee Madden of Grown Up Farm in Belchertown – all women, small business owners and market vendors. They are joined by a collection of other volunteers at the market and behind the scenes.
“The planning for this started last summer with fundraising for start-up costs,” Krassler says. “We had to cover insurance, advertising and launching our website. We had to buy things like tents, tables and signs. There’s more that goes into running a market than finding a space and setting up booths.”
Some of those funds came from a crowdsourced fundraising campaign, with community members donating over $3,500 to support this vision.
Then with an eye toward financial accessibility, Krassler reached out to local businesses to sponsor a SNAP match program. This will offer SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients an extra $10 to spend when they use their SNAP at the market, while businesses receive more public visibility.
That match money can be spent on anything at the market, not just food, which Krassler was adamant about. “We wanted this money to go back to all our local vendors in sales,” she says, “and to give people full choice in what they buy.”
In another boon to farmers market access, the South Hadley Senior Center will also be running a shuttle between their location and the market for seniors who don’t drive.
For Krassler, the fruits of all this labor are now ripening as the market finally begins, and each brings a different type of value to South Hadley.
“It’s a community event – a place where people can go to enjoy the outdoors, meet each other and meet the farmers who grow their food,” she says. “And I think it’s great for kids to see that farmers can be from all different cultures and genders – they’re not all dudes in overalls.”
“It’s also a place to use your SNAP, and with our match people can stretch their SNAP pretty far,” she adds. “And it’s a big boost to small businesses. A lot of them, like Flora and Fauna Farm, start off selling at farmers markets because they can’t really afford their own shop, and then grow from there.”
Updates on which vendors are coming each week are given on the market’s newsletter (sign ups at farmersmarketsouthhadley.com), Instagram (@southhadleymarket), and Facebook (Farmers’ Market South Hadley). Krassler cautions that a Facebook page for the now defunct former market still exists but cannot be updated or deleted.
At the market, shoppers can visit the manager’s tent to run their EBT cards and receive SNAP and SNAP match tokens. Any questions can be directed to volunteers wearing red lanyards. Prospective vendors, sponsors, volunteers or anyone with questions can also email Krassler directly from the address on their website.
“We definitely still need volunteers to run the market booth and other things,” she says, “and sponsors too.”
Farmers’ markets don’t just happen. They’re built by and for hardworking people from communities that see a need for them, and last as long as that energy remains. The new South Hadley Farmers’ Market is just beginning, but if Krassler has her way, “we want this to be something that continues for years to come.”
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about farmers markets opening now near you, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.