June 20, 2018
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Machias farmers market going strong after two decades

By Dan Barr, Special to the BDN

MACHIAS, Maine — On almost any sunny Friday morning cars gather on the stretch of Route 1 that overlooks Machias Bay. Canopies go up, produce and crafts are laid out, and the Machias Valley Farmers’ Market opens for business.

From May until October, the popular Washington County market attracts local farmers and artisans to Machias. Beginning in the late 1980s as a small, informal gathering, the market has grown into a full-blown event for tourists and natives alike, turning a scenic causeway into a makeshift shopping center.

Sellers offer everything from annuals and perennials, naturally grown vegetables and herbs, handmade wool items and jewelry. The market also attracts resellers, wood carvers, and food trucks. Some vendors, such as Francis Wallace with Green Thumb Greenhouse, have been fixtures at the market for up to 20 years, while others such as Brenda Gillen of Sunset Weaving in Jonesboro are new to the scene.

“It’s a good place to be,” said Gillen. “And with tourist season picking up I get to talk to people from all over.”

Many of Gillen’s handwoven goods have been recycled from old felt blankets. Her neighbor in the market, Donna Pickard of Far Point Farm in Steuben, also offers a range of wool goods, but unlike Gillen, she harvests the wool herself.

“I run it all by myself,” Pickard is proud to say. “The wool is handwoven and dyed, and I do all the knitting, weaving and hooking.” In season she also sells produce, and occasionally meat from her farm.

Like many of the vendors at the Machias market, Gillen and Pickard sell their wares at other markets. Bob and Margie Chandler of Chandler’s Sugar Shack in Topsfield sell their maple syrup almost exclusively at farmers markets. The family-run business is one of the largest producers of syrup in Washington County with over 2,000 taps.

“We sell in Calais and Princeton, and we also sell out of the house,” said Bob Chandler. This season was particularly rough for maple producers, with yield at less than half of what the Chandlers’ had hoped to produce.

After the Rain Farms of Alexander, run by Liz Carter, is another seller who relies on farmers markets for income. The farm offers a variety of greens and herbs and has attracted two students from the University of Richmond in Virginia, Jerry Giordano and Asha Phadke, who came to Maine to learn the art and science of small sustainable farming.

The next table over from After the Rain, browsers can find pastries and cakes freshly baked by Angela Garrison. Her business, Angie’s Everything Nice Bakery, is usually a catering service, but she uses the farmers market to augment her income. She began selling at the market late last year and was so successful she decided to come back again for a full year.

Vendors involved say most of the success of the Machias causeway farmers market is due to Frank and Barbara Anthony, of Anthony’s Farms in Roque Bluffs, who were instrumental in growing the market until Frank Anthony’s death. Even with the support of the Down East Business Alliance, most of the new market sellers are recruited by word of mouth.

“Frank was like an anchor for the farmers market,” said Timothy Dow, who makes sea glass jewelry and owns Ocean Jewels of Maine. “It would be nice to find another person like that. It’s a nice organization for the town of Machias, and I’d like to see it stay strong and healthy.”

Dow and other participants encourage those interested in joining to get involved soon before the season starts to wind down.

“We saw the collection of cars so we decided to pull over,” said Jen Hanowell, who was driving through Machias with her husband Joel from Massachusetts when they stopped to check out the market. “I’m glad we did, there’s a lot of good food here.”

The market is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May until October. It can be found on the Route 1 causeway just northeast of downtown Machias.

For information, visit www.machiasvalleyfarmersmarket.com, or the market’s Facebook page, Friends of Machias Valley Farmers’ Market.

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