Farmers' Market At Forest Park Begins 20th Season
In a sure sign of spring, the Farmers’ Market at Forest Park opened today in Springfield, Massachusetts and observed a milestone.
Just before 12:30 p.m., the rain stopped, the sun broke through, and people streamed into the farmers’ market as it opened for business for a 20th season.
The farmers’ market in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood started out with five vendors in the parking lot of a thrift store. Then it moved to a church parking lot, and when it outgrew that the market set up inside Forest Park itself where it has thrived since 2008.
"We have about 30 vendors. We are not big by national standards, but we are pretty good size for Massachusetts," said Belle-Rita Novak, now in her 20th year as market manager.
" I feel terrific because it has been so successful and it brings so many people from so many places," said Novak just after the market opened Tuesday for the new season.
Novak is picky about which vendors are allowed into the Springfield market. The emphasis is on quality and diversity. You won’t find table-after-table of the same thing. In addition to in-season fresh produce there are vendors selling fresh fish, grass feed beef, chicken, pork, and eggs. There are baked goods, prepared foods, jams, jelly, honey and agriculture-based products such as goat’s milk soap.
The Springfield market was one of the first in the state with a wine vendor three years ago when the law was changed to allow alcohol sales at farmers’ markets.
Thomas Flebotte, owner of Tom’s Wildflower Honey in Ludlow, has been selling his wares at the Springfield market for six years.
" You get a lot of regulars and some people who have never been before who are amazed that this is all right here in Springfield," said Flebotte.
People come to the market with multiple reusable shopping bags tucked under their arms and with long shopping lists.
Beth Kronlund of Longmeadow said she shops at the market every week during the season.
"The fresh food, the variety, it just a wonderful thing we have available to us," she said.
The occasion of the 20th season of the Farmers’ Market at Forest Park brought Mayor Domenic Sarno for a visit – he said his wife and daughters are regular customers – and to issue a proclamation honoring longtime market manager Novak.
" For 20 years she has been unquestioned in the farmers' market movement and this market continues to highlight the majestic Forest Park," said Sarno.
The city’s director of parks, Pat Sullivan, said the city charges the farmers’ market about $1,000 to use the park property.
"We love having it here," said Sullivan. " Anytime you bring people to a park in a positive atmosphere it is a good day."
The farmers’ market is open every Tuesday, rain or shine, from 12:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. through the end of October.