This summer, the Hampstead Farmers Market will be turning 5 years old, and Hampstead Councilwoman Marlene Duff, one of the founders, believes it will be an important birthday.
“They say it takes three to five years for any new venture to take hold in a community, be it a store or restaurant or an event,” Duff said. “This is our fifth year and I think the market is here to stay.”
The first market date of the 2014 season opens at 9 a.m. on June 7, with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin at 10 a.m., and free birthday cake — while it lasts — in honor of the market’s turning 5, according to Duff. The opening date will also feature magic by local magician Dave Thomen, complimentary children’s face painting by Masquerade Studios and musician Bert Kekauoha, who will play covers and original music will return every other week for the rest of the season to serenade market-goers.
The main attractions at this producer-only market, of course, are the vendors, who range from growers of fresh produce, to makers of baked goods, artists and coffee roasters. There will also be several new vendors this year, according to Duff, offering everything from soy candles to eggs to organic produce.
Everblossom Farm, of East Berlin, Penn., is one of those new vendors, a certified organic farm that will be bringing an array of greens and berries to the market on June 7, according to owner Elaine Lemmon.
“We will have salad mix and spinach and napa cabbage, swiss chard, kale, strawberries and potentially a bit of asparagus,” Lemmon said. “A couple of specialty items like radicchio and other types of fancy greens like a red spinach.”
Larry and Caroline Foreman, of CaroLove Soaps, are also new to vending at the farmers market. The longtime Hampstead couple will be offering boutique type scented soaps they have developed. They plan to attend all 18 market dates and introduce new scents at each market date, starting with summer scents such as such as lilac, lavender or lemon poppy seed and moving to spicier aromas like pumpkin as the farmers market moves into autumn.
“We make what’s called a luxury bar of soap because we use shea butter and mango butter and four other kinds of oils so it’s very moisturizing, lathering and it’s all good for your skin,” Larry said. “We’ve been making [soap] for more than a year. We are just starting to sell it in the last couple of months to friends ... It’s had a really good response and we decided to take it further so we’re going to see how far it will go.”
The Foremans will be vending for the first time, but Larry said they have been enthusiastic supporters of the farmers market since the very beginning.
“You get to know people at the market, it’s very friendly and the prices are wonderful. The produce is wonderful,” he said. “Personally, our whole family tries to eat more of the locally grown .... It just becomes a staple throughout the summer.”
There will be at least 22 vendors on the opening day, possibly more given that some applications are still pending, according to Duff, a big increase from when the farmers market first launched five years ago.
“When we started in 2010, we had five vendors on opening day,” she said. “Last year we had 20 vendors on opening day, so it’s just kind of exploded.” Market attendance in 2013 was approximately 11,000 people between June and November, according to Duff, up from nearly 7,000 in 2012.
If the trend in market attendance and vendor growth continues, the farmers market’s fifth year may well be its strongest yet and a potent sign that, as Duff hopes, the market is here to stay. But according to Larry, from the perspective of both a resident and a new vendor, the farmers market is already an integral part of life in Hampstead.
“I think it’s a great thing for the town to have. It’s something unique for the town so they don’t have to run to Westminster,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to be a part of it.”