As Fresh as it Gets

Shopping Local at Plymouth Farmer’s Market

By Vivian Siempos Haidas

Sweet red tomatoes and golden jars of raw, local honey glisten in the afternoon sun while locavores stroll between white tents at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market, filling up bags and baskets with fresh produce and small-batch artisanal products.

A collection of local farmers and food trucks convene every Thursday afternoon between the months of June and October, in a grassy field beside the gates to Plimoth Plantation. And from November to May, the market vendors set up shop inside the museum’s Henry Hornblower Visitor Center the second Thursday of each month. Devoted to promoting products that are hand-grown, hand-harvested and hand-made in Plymouth and nearby communities, the market has developed a loyal following of community members who appreciate all things natural, sustainable and community based.

The market’s location could not be more apropos, with visitors making their way past pastures where heritage breed goats and sheep are grazing and down museum corridors dedicated to the preservation of historic crafts and traditions. The market booths buzz with activity as vendors greet customers with a smile and chat with regulars. Local musicians serenade shoppers as they peruse edible treats as well as handmade gifts.

A number of local bakers are represented at the market, including a gluten-free baker, and craft beers from Mayflower Brewing Company (brewed and bottled right in Plymouth) are available for those looking to wash down all the chocolates, cheeses and other savory bites that can be sampled while exploring the market stalls.

Founded by Barbara Anglin, the market began in grassroots fashion in 2005 and was held at Stephen’s Field for five years. In 2010, the vendors needed a new home for the winter months and Plimoth Plantation welcomed them in with open arms. Plymouth Farmers’ Market’s new director, David Purpura, is carrying on the group’s legacy and helping the market connect with new audiences. The owner of Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm, a certified organic vegetable farm located in Middleboro, Purpura has been a vendor at the market since 2006. “I know many of my customers by name and there are some really great volunteers who help with every aspect of the market,” says Purpura.

With numerous vendors offering a wide variety of products to choose from, many customers are able to do all their grocery shopping at the Market. Charlotte Russell and Lois Post have been frequenting the Plymouth Farmers’ Market since its inception. Both have a strong belief in buying local and have a love for their community. They arrive with empty cloth bags and empty egg cartons and make a point to stop by at each vendor to purchase supplies for the week, purchasing everything from eggs and vegetables to jams, sausages and even gifts. Another local shopper, Sarah Klem, has discovered that she can purchase all she needs for her home at the market. She lives just three miles away from Plimoth Plantation and is a regular customer. Being a vegetarian, fresh produce is important to her and she says that she is now on a first name basis with nearly all the vendors.

Skinny Dip Farm is one such vendor, whose produce stand stocks an assortment of colorful root vegetables, greens, herbs and more. Hannah Wolbach and her husband, Ben, grow a wide range of certified organic vegetables, herbs and flowers and sell them locally. They farm in Westport, MA and in Little Compton, RI. Wolbach moves about the market booth, chatting with customers and weighing produce–all while toting her adorable daughter, Matilda, in a carrier on her back.

Across the way is the Web of Life Farm booth. Owned by the Blischke family, Web of Life Farm is an organic farm in Carver that has been operating since 1990 and has been certified organic since 1996. They have been part of the Plymouth Farmers’ Market for eight years and on this particular day Donna Blischke is manning the stand with her daughter, Stephanie. The family sells a variety of organically grown seedlings, vegetables, poultry, honey and eggs as well as a line of farm-made products like jellies and jams and hand creams and soaps. “There is a wonderful mix of vendors at the market and there are a lot of regular customers,” says Blischke.

Vendor Jenny Healy of Jenny’s Bread is a favorite at the Plymouth Farmer’s Market, not just for her pleasant demeanor but also for her aromatic and fresh, all-natural handmade baked goods. The fan favorites are double chocolate buns–soft rolls that contain chocolate chips. More recent additions to the farmers’ market, Marianne and Kevin McCarthy, are the owners of Signal Rock Farm in Charlton, MA. The couple have owned their farm for 10 years. Before starting the farm, McCarthy worked 80 – 90 hours a week in a corporate job. The McCarthys now have 120 lambs and fill their market booth with wool blankets and yarn, soaps, sheep’s milk and lamb meat.

Meanwhile, the team at the Brown Boar Farm stand is cooking up sausages that they put on Jenny’s Bread for a hearty, all-natural snack. The farm is dedicated to raising and preserving rare heritage breed hogs, including Tamworth, Berkshire and Hereford. Owner and CEO Peter Burrows, and his daughter, Sarah Burrows VanDerkar, manager of the farm, working the stand, selling a range of heritage pork products. They also sell lard that Burrows says is a healthy alternative to butter and oil. He has owned Brown Boar Farm for 10 years and believes passionately about the importance of diversity in meat sources. The family travels to the market all the way from Vermont but say the trip is worthwhile because the Plymouth Farmers’ Market is year-round and they’ve been able to build a local following. “Vendors help each other out and have fun together and the market itself has a wonderful spirit that is family friendly,” says Burrows.

Customers appreciate learning where and how their food is grown and having the chance to meet the farmers their money helps support. With chef-led culinary demonstrations and rustic chalkboard menus listing the day’s freshest products and prices, buying local isn’t just a catchphrase — it’s a way of life.

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