Winter farmers’ markets have new homes in Hadley, Northampton
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 1, 2018, by Meg Bantle
Two local winter farmers’ markets have moved to more accessible locations this year, making it easy to stop in and shop.
Since the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market moved to Hampshire Mall in Hadley, the hall outside of Target has become a bustling community hub on Saturday mornings.
Sefnuon Noeun, who lives in Amherst, brings his 7-year-old son, Jessie Noeun, to tae kwon do class at the mall on Saturdays. He said that the farmers’ market offers a great chance to do some shopping while he waits for his son to get out of training.
“It’s convenient. It’s right here, so that makes everything easier,” Noeun said.
This is the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market’s first season at the mall after moving from its previous location at the Amherst Regional Middle School. The market is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through March 17.
Cathleen O’Keefe has been the market manager for two years and oversaw the transition to the new space. “It brings such life and vibrancy to what was a dead space,” she said.
Though rent at the school prompted the move, the market’s new home at the mall has been beneficial for several reasons. “It’s been great for us as far as our logistical needs,” O’Keefe said, referring to the ample parking and storage space. She also noted that the natural light pouring in from the glass doorway was a welcome change from the harsh fluorescent lights at the middle school.
Vendors said one of the big pluses of hosting the farmers’ market at the mall is the increased foot traffic.
“We get a lot of people stopping that wouldn’t have gone to the middle school,” said Ben Wells-Tolley, co-owner of Chase Hill Farm in Warwick. “The foot traffic is good for the cheese.”
Melissa Manning drove to Hadley from her home in Athol with her mother-in-law because there is not a winter farmers’ market closer to them. She said that she likes the market’s location in the mall because she can also shop at Target.
“I love farm-fresh food,” Manning said. “I’d rather get the good stuff instead of stuff from the grocery store.”
Max Breiteneicher, co-owner of Grace Hill Farm in Cummington, has been selling his cheese at the winter market for a few years and said that he likes the new location and the diversity of people who come through the market.
“It’s been nice to have people interact with our product who wouldn’t normally come to a farmers’ market,” Breiteneicher said.
Meanwhile, the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market also moved to a new location this year, the Senior Center at 67 Conz St.
Laura Hilberg and Sophia Zucker said that the market is now a lot easier to get to with their one 1-year-old son, Ellis Hilberg-Zucker, because it is within walking distance of their house.
“We come here for weekly shopping, for meat and veggies mostly,” Hilberg said. “And as an activity because it’s winter and we’re bored at home.”
Leslie Lynn Lucio and Ali Diamond of Northampton took over managing the market earlier this year. Diamond said that moving the market was mostly motivated by their desire to get it back downtown where it started, in Thornes Marketplace.
The new space is slightly smaller than its previous location at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, but Diamond said that the Senior Center is warm and welcoming and has many amenities, including lots of parking and a lounge area for the market’s story time.
“It was really important to us that the market continue and that the market is accessible,” Diamond said.
Diamond pointed out that the Northampton Senior Center is more accessible by bus and is closer to residential areas and a few Northampton Housing Authority buildings. Diamond added that Massachusetts’ new Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) was a big factor in wanting the market to be accessible.
HIP reimburses people with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits when they purchase eligible fruits and vegetables directly from participating farmers and farmers markets. Because there are fewer markets and farm stands open in the winter, farmers’ markets are sometimes the only places to get the added HIP benefit.
“Being able to be a tiny piece of helping people have access to food feels really great,” Diamond said.
Geri Pollard, co-owner and pastry baker at Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, said that she has been selling at the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market for more than five years. She said that many of her regular customers from the Hilltowns do not come to the new location in downtown Northampton, but she has been building a new customer base.
Tevis Robertson-Goldberg, owner of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, has also been attending the market since its inception. “I definitely feel like more people are getting here on public transportation,” she said.
The Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through April 21.
Meg Bantle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.