This Saturday marks the end of the Chatham Borough Farmers Market’s fifth season. After 22 weeks, a hurricane and an , customers have to say goodbye to this community staple for the year.
Over the past five years, the market has continuously improved and grown. In 2007, when the market opened, it had only eight regular vendors. Now, only five years later, and the market rotates 32 vendors in and out of the market each week.
“We had a lot of unique vendors come that originally put in to come only once or twice a month that asked to come more often,” said Council Member John Holman, the Farmers Market Council liaison, said. “We had [a wine vendor] for the first time this year at the Farmers Market. I believe she sold out before noon every time she came.”
To help manage the market’s popularity, the Farmers Market committee extended the market’s season. “We expanded the length of our market so that consumers could stay in touch with the vendors over the holidays,” Janice Piccolo, Farmers Market manager, said.
The 2011 market season surpassed many people’s initial expectations. Although Holman will not know the official amount of revenue that the market brought in this season until after the market closes, he suspects a 30 to 40 percent increase in the market’s revenue from last year.
“Word has spread that we have a very successful market and we have several new applicants and vendors who want to come more often. Our revenue increased [this year] by the number of people who have decided to come back more often,” Holman said.
The Market’s Volunteers
Holman and Piccolo both attribute a lot of the market’s success to its devoted volunteer staff.
“We have a very strong volunteer network, I can’t stress that enough. They get [to the market] an hour, sometimes two hours before [each market] and they check to make sure all the vendors are approved vendors,” Holman said.
According to Piccolo, the market is always looking for new volunteers to help in any way possible. “Behind the scenes [of the market] is huge,” Piccolo said. “We started with 25 volunteers this year. We have members that are on site [each Saturday], graphic design and publicity volunteers, and volunteer members on our contest days.”
Mary Goodbread is one of the market’s devoted volunteers. She and her 13-year-old granddaughter are at the market each Saturday helping to open and close the market, set up tents and spread out brochures.
The market hosts various contests throughout the year, which is how Goodbread discovered her passion for the Farmers Market. “The way I got involved was through a pie baking contest,” Goodbread said. “I had been going to the market and decided that I wanted to enter the contest with this recipe I had, and that is how I was lured into the market.”
According to Goodbread, the market’s greatest success this year is the addition of new and different vendors, like and , to the market. This diversity makes the market a perfect one-stop shopping center on Saturday mornings.
“We always wanted a cheese vendor, but we could never get a cheese vendor to come, and now we have one (). They came one week and loved it,” Goodbread said. “We do not want a lot of people selling the same thing.”
Goodbread says that she and her granddaughter will absolutely be back at the Farmers Market next season, and they need more people to help. The market has adult and junior volunteers. Volunteers get to choose the hours they work and the kinds of projects they work on throughout the season.
“If you like the idea of fresh produce and farming it is a nice way to meet people and see people from town,” Goodbread said. “I may not see someone around the neighborhood, but I [will] see them at the Farmers Market.”
What is Next?
According to Holman, the market is going to continuously evolve. Through the vendor’s products and by using sustainable bags, Piccolo says, the market aims to move forward with the concept of being a sustainable market.
This year, the Farmers Market provided electricity to its vendors. According to Holman, the market plans to add another 100 amps in time for next season, and hopes to purchase a second shed.
“A lot of the vendors were coming with their own generators. To try and stay green, we pulled in electricity to the shed,” Holman said. “We want to keep more equipment in the shed. We are looking into getting [a second one] and putting another electrical panel there.”
The Farmers Market committee is constantly trying to come up with new ideas for the market. Holman says they are trying to get more bands to perform during the market hours and they are trying to think up new contest ideas. The committee is always trying to get an idea of what the people want to see at the market, and implement those ideas.