The return of summer farmers’ market

AJ Marro / Rutland Herald

 [Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 5/12/11] 

Saturday, May 7 marked the Downtown Rutland Farmers’ Market’s return to its summer home in Depot Park. While we in Rutland enjoy a year-round market, there is a definite difference between the summer and winter varieties.

That’s not to say one is better than the other. Indeed, both are robust and vibrant displays of local agriculture, prepared foods and handmade crafts. It’s just that each has its own flavor and rhythm.

The winter market, housed in the Strand Theatre, behind The Co-op, has scrappy, urban feel — like a something you’d encounter in Brooklyn or Portland. Attending is like being let in on a secret.

But while the location may suggest that the market has gone into hibernation — stolen away in its cavernous den — the vendors prove the contrary. Greens, root vegetables, local meats and eggs sustain shoppers well into the darkest winter months.

By contrast, the summer market is a verdant weekly festival in full bloom. It is the prototypical farmers’ market — the kind that tourism bureaus put in glossy magazine ads and hotel rack cards.

On opening day, the excitement was palpable. For such a cold and dreary spring, the produce selection was surprisingly strong. Ephemeral early spring treats like fiddleheads and ramps were abundant. In another month or so, the market will explode with young vegetables as the soggy spring gives way (as it seems to be) to sunny early summer.

As always, a stroll down the meandering aisles reveals both familiar faces and many new ones. As the market has grown, it has made an effort to remain inclusive despite the obvious space constraints.

Something striking about these new faces is just how young they are. There is now a sizeable number of growers and farmers in their 20s and 30s breathing new life and energy into what has been an aging field.

Part of this energy is evident in the Vermont Farmers’ Market (one of the two organizations comprising Rutland’s Downtown Market) marketing committee, which features several of the market’s younger growers and vendors.

The result has been an effort to effectively “market the market” in the digital age. The group has been tackling social media and developing a number of events and activities that are aimed at broadening the market’s appeal and elevating its profile in the greater community.

On May 14, they are helping to organize a parade to mark the return of the summer market. The procession, which will start at 10 a.m. in front of The Co-op on Wales Street and will travel down Center Street into Depot Park, where Mayor Chris Louras will throw out the ceremonial first radish.

The parade will also feature animals, musicians, costumed revelers and representatives and friends of local organizations like Sustainable Rutland and RAFFL.

At the market, there will be hourly raffle drawings for prizes from various vendors as well as a grand prize drawing for a market-wide gift certificate.

Everyone is invited to join in the parade. The theme is vegetables (obviously) so all are encouraged to dress accordingly.

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