As Julie from Barton Farms straightens out her seedling display a woman approaches her gleefully exclaiming “I’m so excited, I’m so excited!” She of course is talking about the opening of the Ashford Farmers Market at Pompey Hollow in Ashford. Five vendors make an L around the dirt lot they occupy and welcome folks back to the new season by filling their stands with seedlings, jams and preserves, greens, radishes, meat, cheeses, and prepared foods. The diversity sets you up for your whole meal planning efforts for the week.
Trays of marigolds get lifted from the stands as folks get their gardens ready and tomato charts are brought out as consumers decide between different varieties. This little market may look demure, but it is anything but quiet.
The gaggle of folks that come up and address the farmers by name and engage in “what have you been up to” is surprising. When I ask Julie Barton (the market master) how she knows all these folks, she says from just being at the market! “There is a sense of community here that I don’t find at any other farmers markets. I’ve been here for about 10 years and have literally watched folks children grow up and get to know what’s happening in their lives.”
Of course, nothing against the big markets with the crowds of people weaving in and through stands of farmers, craft vendors and food trucks, but the Ashford Farmers Market is intended to be different- and you see people appreciate that difference as creases by their eyes indicate the big grin hiding behind their masks. It’s a meeting of friends and a place to dawdle rather than an exchange of goods for tender. A little girl dances among the vendors singing her favorite songs, folks rejoice at the bottles of maple syrup they discover at one stand, and a mother with 2 toddlers in tow goes to explore the vast green lawn and babbling brook located just behind the site.
Who can say what a traditional Connecticut Farmers Market looks like, but I imagine it’s something close to Ashford’s- filled with farmers bringing the goods of their labor, the people that appreciate and savor their products, and most importantly, the joy of community: being known and knowing the individuals that make up their town and feed the community.