Skowhegan: Farmers markets thrive in Maine

Posted Aug. 02, 2008, at 12 a.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine -&nbspAt the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market Saturday, a hammered dulcimer played Irish dance tunes while children had their faces painted and visitors enjoyed a small art exhibit showing the works of local potters, artists and weavers.

Music and art are not what some may expect among the radishes and chevre cheeses, but having a diverse, family-oriented market is one of the keys to its success.

Skowhegan’ s market, celebrating its 11th year, is clear evidence of that, having grown in the past three years from four vendors to 16.

Marketmaster Sarah Smith said the diversity and growth is a perfect fit with Skowhegan’ s ongoing downtown revitalization.

“We have music every week,” she said. “We have events that feature artists and educators, environmental education.” In addition, the market provides benches for resting and a wide, diverse choice of vendors. There were soap makers, honey vendors, cheese makers, bakers, organic produce growers, a buffalo meat vendor, and Jade, a little girl with her own organic lemonade stand.

Sarah Baker and her husband, Joseph, of North Woods Naturals in Bingham, have been raising organic vegetables for 30 years and have been selling at the Skowhegan market for six. “The buy-local movement is getting bigger and bigger every year,” she said. “This is an event, not just a market.”

August 3 through 9 has been declared Maine Farmers’ Market Week and Commissioner of Agriculture Seth Bradstreet III is encouraging Mainers to visit a local market.

“This week is in honor of farmers in Maine who grow and provide us with food and fiber supplies,” Bradstreet said Friday. “The vitality of farms across our state is good for local economies, good for consumers, and good for Maine residents.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports more than 4,500 farmers markets currently operate throughout the nation — a record number, up from 2,800 in the year 2000. Sales generated by farmers markets nationwide have been estimated to exceed $1 billion a year, with most of the money going directly to small family farmers. Maine hosts approximately 80 farmers markets statewide.

A full listing of Maine’ s farmers’ markets can be found at www.getrealmaine.com.

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