Down East farmers market seeking … farmers

Posted Jan. 11, 2010, at 2:38 p.m.

WHITING, Maine — In assessing the 2009 farmers market season in Calais, farmers of the Washington County Farmers’ Alliance at their meeting here Sunday said they are lacking one key ingredient: more farmers.

Ted Carter, a farmer from Alexander, said the Calais market is going so well on Tuesdays that he never even got to the Eastport farmers market on Saturdays.

“I was all sold out,” he said. “One day we sold 120 pounds of peas. Their market is there [in Calais].”

Carter said the foot traffic didn’t diminish after the tourist season ended.

“It’s the local people that are coming out,” he said.

Carter said the Calais market had a good variety this past season, selling maple syrup, vegetables, berries, goat milk products and flowers.

“We fully have the city fathers’ support,” Carter said. “They supply the space,” which is in the downtown on grass.

But Carter said he’s heard from farmers markets in Eastport, Ellsworth, Blue Hill and Calais that there are not enough local growers to meet local demand.

The Alliance members said they will try to expand and extend the growing season to feed those customers.

Carter also said there will be a new addition to the market at Calais this spring: a community tent.

“This could be a place for backyard gardeners who have surplus fruits or vegetables to offer them for sale,” he said.

It could also provide testing space for new farmers who are just investigating whether to make the leap to farmers’ markets.

Not only are farmers markets looking for more growers, but local buying clubs and cooperatives are also.

Inez Lombardo, who coordinates the Machias Marketplace, a buying club, said that last December her club averaged 20 customers a week who spent about $2,200.

“That is with no tourists,” she said.

Lombardo said the club is served by seven area farmers who provide bread, meat, dairy products, cheese, fruits and herbal products.

“At this time of year, we really need greens,” she said, and expressed encouragement for Alliance farmers to think about winter gardening.

The Alliance also approved at Sunday’s meeting a farmers’ winter retreat to focus and network more fully, and approved a new brochure that details all the county’s farms and the products they offer.

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