The humble beginnings of local farmers’ markets have deep roots in our nation’s history. One of the earliest recorded farmers’ markets dates back to 1730, in Lancaster, Pa., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers’ markets were, and still are, a critical piece to our nation’s food system.
So vital were farmers’ markets that in 1806, President Thomas Jefferson bought beef, eggs, and assorted vegetables at a Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) market, according to Smithsonian magazine.
Fairfield County will soon be ripe with summer farmers’ markets, many opening by mid-June.
Keith Ciociola, market manager for the Monroe Farmers’ Market, explains, “The Monroe Farmers’ Market was founded with the mission of providing children and families with access to healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables with the hope that they would develop an appreciation for knowing where their food comes from, get to know local producers, try new things, and develop lifelong healthy eating habits.”
Monroe Farmers’ Market is a “CT Grown” market, according to Ciociola, which means that everything at the market is either grown or produced in Connecticut. The market offers fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers, baked goods, meat, raw honey, honeycomb, maple syrup, fresh prepared Italian meals, wood-fired brick oven pizza, wine, goat’s milk soap, fresh-caught clams, and Italian ice.
Judith Lanz Sedor, marketing representative for the Darien Farmers’ Market, stresses the importance of the community-local farm relationship. “Supporting small farms is paramount to keeping our local economy viable. Small farms are very important to both our economy and ecology, and many small farms are dependent on the income from the sale of produce to remain viable.” The market offers fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, bread, pastries, soap, and flowers.
The Trumbull Farmers’ Market, hosted by the Nichols Improvement Association, offers seasonal produce, pickles, soups, fresh clams, herbs/plants, meat, eggs, dairy, gourmet cheeses, bread, specialty coffee drinks, kombucha tea, organic ice cream, crafts, cookies, organic pet treats, and a solar/home energy evaluator.
Rob Martini, who organizes the Trumbull Farmers’ Market with his wife, Catherine, says, “The farmers’ market offers our community a chance to buy healthy food options while supporting locally sourced Connecticut vendors.” Catherine adds, “It’s a true farm-to-table experience. Supporting the market means supporting many aspects of our community, including Connecticut farms, small business entrepreneurs and the Nichols Improvement Association.”
Community is at the heart of the farmers’ market, and Debra Hanson, executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, which presents the Wilton Farmers’ Market, says, “Producing this farmers’ market is a great opportunity to serve the community, showcase Wilton, and bring some new and different products to customers. The community seems to enjoy visiting this outdoor venue to purchase farm-fresh and artisan foods and products, have a bite of delicious BBQ, a sweet treat, and support our local providers.” The market features locally grown produce, flowers, cheeses, sauces, food trucks, jewelry, and more.
The Shelton Farmers’ Market has a long history, dating back to its creation in 1993 by local farmer Guy Beardsley on a barren dirt field on Canal Street. In 1997, the town of Shelton acquired the land on which the farmers’ market building now stands.
According to Meg Hyndman, marketing director, “All of our produce and products are grown, raised or created by the farmers and artisans at the market, whose mission is to provide fresh local foods and artisanal products to its members and customers in an environmentally, economically sustainable fashion while still maintaining its integrity as a producer-only venue.”
This season, the Shelton Farmers’ Market will offer produce, herbs, meats, salsa, eggs, locally grown/cut flowers, wine, and local alpaca and llama yarn.
What began in the parking lot of the Westport Community Playhouse as a gathering of 14 vendors organized by the late Paul Newman and Michel Nischan, chef and executive director of Wholesome Wave, has blossomed into the Westport Farmers’ Market (WFM), a destination for shopping, meeting for lunch, listening to music, supporting community programs, and engaging children in farm- and food-based activities.
According to Lori Cochran-Dougall, executive director of Westport Farmers’ Market, “We’re excited to bring many new faces and programs to the market this year. We’ll be rotating farm-to-food-truck vendors every week so there’s something for everyone, including the female-owned Dough Girls Wood-Fired Pizza Truck; M.O.C. Eatery, a self-described gastro-pub on wheels; and Skinny Pines Pizza Truck.”
Husband and wife team Bill and Maureen Auer, in collaboration with Mark Barnhart of the town of Fairfield Economic Development Office, manage the Fairfield Farmers’ Market. Now in its third season, the Fairfield Farmers’ Market, located on the Sherman Green, features more than two dozen local farms and food producers.
In addition to seasonal vegetables and fruits, shoppers can find organic meat, fresh fish, salami, pickles, kombucha tea, coffee, and handcrafted popsicles.
“We believe it’s important to support local farms by shopping farmers’ markets,” Bill Auer explains. “Customers are well educated on the health benefits of eating local and organic food. They enjoy talking to the farmer, trading recipes with the pickle maker, seeing what the local catch of the day is from the fish guy — there’s a great community that has built up around the farmers’ market.”