Live music spilled out onto Maple Street last Wednesday as Essex Jct.’s beloved farmers’ market broke in its new time and location, kicking off the 2018 season in style.
Twenty vendors – some new, some old – held court behind Road ResQ in the temporary parking lot, which will be transformed into a market scene once a week throughout the summer. Vendors sold products ranging from produce and prepared food to crafts and rum, and when their booth was empty, spilled into next-door tents to check out their neighbors’ stash.
Attendees, meanwhile, moseyed around the market, bending down to inspect some fresh leaves or sit in the grass and chat with friends.
While the changes might take some getting used to, the familiar bustle was proof: The Five Corners Farmers’ Market is back in action.
“You don’t really even know you’re in the middle of Five Corners,” said market manager Julie Miller-Johnson of the new location, “which I think is the beauty of it.”
One vendor making her Five Corners debut was Kate Halladay, owner of the Morrisville-based Sustainable Kitchen, a community-supported kitchen that pools produce from local farmers. Halladay had frequented the Stowe Farmers’ Market and decided to branch out into Chittenden County. She arrived to opening day in the village with a few goals in mind: “Get your feelers out there, see what the crowd is like and gauge what you need to bring. And just have fun.”
In a tent next door, Jeremy MacLachlan chatted with a few potential customers as they looked over his mixed vegetables.
Maclachlan grows his produce on an acre-and-a-half urban setting in Brandon. He admitted his offerings were a bit paltry compared to usual – he’s in the transition period between the cold and warm seasons – and said he wants to ramp up his growing and selling. The mid-week Essex Jct. market was a good fit, he said.
He now looks forward to getting to know some local market attendees and developing the relationship between customer and grower.
The season opener marked the culmination of months of work from Miller-Johnson and her newly minted board of directors, who have met since the beginning of the year to get acquainted with the market and its past iterations.
They then hashed out the new details and winnowed down a large pool of interested vendors into a lineup of about 30, including a mix of seasonal and part-time to keep the market fresh.
A healthy crowd gathered an hour into last week’s market, though Miller-Johnson noted the new location’s expanse makes gauging attendance a bit harder. But talking with vendors had shown everyone was selling, she said, and “that’s what really matters.”
“People have come a great distance to sell in our market so I’m hoping that the community will come out and make it worth their while,” she said.
That pursuit is doubly important in the market’s revamp, considering one of the reasons for last year’s postponement was flagging sales from the market’s vendors.
One of those board members is Diana Hackenburg, who said she was bummed to learn of the market’s postponement after she moved to Vermont last July. But then she saw the market was looking for volunteers to kickstart this season.
“Seeing and meeting the people that live in your community is really beneficial,” Hackenburg said. “You get to see who your neighbors are, you get a sense that your neighbors are friendly and kind and happy to live here. I think a farmer’s market can be an essential place for creating community.”
Some vendors did offer feedback on the new location and time. Among the requests: a later start and a bit more shade. But most feedback about the market’s reincarnation was positive from vendors, and at least one parent was equally appreciative.
“Fridays, you’re kind of spent, or it’s date night, or you have other plans and you’re gone for the weekend,” Andrea Cote said. “I kind of like having it on a Wednesday, especially when summer comes and schools out … it [helps] break up the work week.”
For Miller-Johnson, the market’s return fits helps complete her vision of the village.
“It’s super exciting to be right here in the middle of the village and bring some vitality to Essex Jct.,” she said. “That’s what I’m all about.”