By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter
The Five Corners Farmers’ Market enters its fifth season next Friday with a season-opening evening on Lincoln Place. It’s a significant milestone, says market board of directors President Lori Houghton, a testament to the sustained effort of a group of community volunteers who launched the weekly series as part of a larger downtown revitalization effort.
The market is on solid fiscal footing, Houghton said, and it has partnered this offseason with the Heart and Soul of Essex citizens group on financial management. As a result, a Friends of the Market entity has been established to accept donations for the market’s educational events and service to low-income shoppers.
But its survival is not a given. In recent years, Houghton said, the market has lost some balance between agricultural items and prepared foods as patrons have gravitated to the hot, ready-to-eat food. She and the board are reminding market-goers to give special consideration to supporting produce vendors at the market this season. Without them, it’s not a farmers’ market, she said.
“Hot foods are good, but produce vendors could stand to make more money while they are here,” Houghton said, noting the all-day effort it takes to bring produce to Five Corners and set up for sales. “We really want to keep it a farmers’ market and not just a dinner market.”
New produce vendors this year include Montpelier’s Gratitude Farms, Jericho’s Home Farm, Cambridge’s Nama Farm and Middlebury’s Fairytale Farm. Returning hot food vendors will offer pizza, tamales, samosas, Mediterranean food and Persian food. The farmers’ market adds a food truck this year to the dinner mix called Fork in the Road. It’s a project of the Burlington School District to offer job skills and culinary training to high school students. Also, members of the Summit Street School Parent Teacher Organization will be selling beverages as a fundraiser for their natural playground initiative at the school.
Houghton said the ideal mix for the market is 60 percent agricultural products and 40 percent prepared foods and crafts. The addition of new produce vendors will bring the market closer to that mix.
Musical entertainment will be provided by a rotation of new and returning bands, she said.