It is that time of year again and the hills are alive with farmers’ markets. As people become aware of the value of buying locally grown, in season food, farmers’markets continue to flourish and multiply becoming available in many areas. Farmers' markets are an ancient method used by farmers worldwide to sell their produce directly to consumers.
Farmers find a number of advantages in selling at farmers' markets. By selling directly to their customers without going through middlemen, farmers can charge retail prices for their produce. A farmers' market is a good place for new growers who are perfecting production skills and learning which products customers want most. In addition, many growers enjoy the interaction with customers and other vendors.
For customers, too, the farmers' market is not just a place to buy food, but a social affair. A festive atmosphere helps to bring people to markets, where they can talk with farmers about how the produce was grown and how it can be prepared.
In addition to produce, meat and dairy, you will also find bread, baked goods, plants, flowers, honey, jams, maple syrup and more. The colorful kaleidoscope of produce, plants and other foods along with the hum of customers and vendors interacting makes for a very sensory experience. Connecting directly with the producer of your food allows for an intimacy, a sense of shared values that one does not typically experience in the grocery store. It heightens and illuminates both the health and social importance of good food.
Here in the Berkshires, we have nine operating farmers’ markets all of which are listed at www.berkshiregrown.com. Berkshire Mountain Bakery participates in two of these markets namely Great Barrington on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Berkshire Area Farmers’ Market at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, you can find us in Amherst, MA at the Town Common on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and at the Springfield, MA farmers’ market at Trinity Church on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 6:00 p.m. For a full list of the markets we attend, visit Farmers' Markets 2010 under News & Events on our hompage.
For me personally, there is nothing better than the opportunity to speak directly with a customer. I derive great pleasure in explaining why we make our bread they way we do (see The Bread) and providing that person with information that allows them to make a more informed purchasing decision. It is also rewarding to get direct feedback on favorite breads, pizzas, or cookies. There is an immeasurable value to creating a personal bond with the people who buy the food you create and to have a shared experience around that product – both the production and consumption. In fact, we try hard to have several of our bakers actually man the stands at the farmers’ markets.
We would love to see you so please stop by any of these markets and say hello to us. We are there rain or shine! We will thoroughly enjoy meeting you and talking about good food most specifically our bread, cookies and other baked goods!
Did you know………..???
Masschusetts is first in New England for direct sales of farm products to consumers. At $31 million in direct sales, Massachusetts farmers were responsible for 40 percent of New England’s total.
Massachusetts ranks 1st nationally in value of average direct market sales per farm at $24,900 per farm.
More than 80 percent of Massachusetts farms are family-owned. Over 93 percent fit the category of “small farms” according to the USDA definition of sales below $250,000.
Female farm operators account for 21% of the farm operators in Massachusetts, up from 18% in 1997
Source: New England Agricultural Statistics 2004