National online survey places Skowhegan Farmers’ Market tops in Maine

Posted Sept. 07, 2011, at 4:51 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The Skowhegan Farmers’ Market has been named the most popular farmers markets in Maine, according to a nationwide online survey of more than 90,000 farmers market customers.

The survey’s top five markets in Maine, in descending order, are Skowhegan, Damariscotta, both Portland’s Saturday and Wednesday markets, and the farmers market at Orono.

Skowhegan’s Market Master Sarah Smith of Grassland Farm in Skowhegan, said the farmers work hard at making the Somerset County market a real destination. There are events and activities for children, music for the whole family and an overall festive atmosphere, she said.

“In a community where 51 percent of the people are receiving food stamp benefits, this market has become a gathering place for everyone,” Smith said. “The market itself is really diverse.”

The Skowhegan Farmers’ Market — considered a boutique market because it has just 17 vendors — sells fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, naturally raised meats, milk, eggs, cheeses, baked goods, coffee, maple syrup, honey, soaps and salves, seedlings and cut flowers. From June to October it operates from 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; from November to April, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month. It is housed at the Somerset Grist Mill, which is the former Somerset County Jail.

Smith said the vendors themselves make and sell pottery each spring to pay musicians who perform each market day, and there also is a strong relationship between the vendors themselves. Smith said the market has avoided vendor politics, which plague some other markets in the state.

“More than 90,000 people from across the country voted for their favorite farmers markets this summer,” according to Jane Kirchner of American Farmland Trust. American Farmland Trust designed the online contest to promote the economic and social value of farmers markets in communities, and to bring attention to the need for consumers and communities to recognize the necessity of local farms to grow fresh, healthy and local food.

“Supporting local farmers is a fun and fulfilling way to help save America’s precious farmland. We hope farmers, chefs and foodies will participate in AFT’s next campaign, Dine Out for Farms, the week of Oct. 16-22, and continue the momentum of support for farms by dining at participating restaurants around the country,” said Kirchner.

Although no Maine market made it to the top 20 national market list, that was mostly due to size. Skowhegan received 67 votes, while the second favorite, Damariscotta, received 54. On the national level, however, the two top markets in the country received thousands of votes. The No. 1 market, at North Port, Florida, got 4,754 votes, and the next popular market, at Manistique, Michigan, got 3,208.

American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms.

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