PORTLAND, Maine — This spring as farmers markets awaken across the state, a group of bakers, herbalists, cheese makers and fiber artists will gather in East Bayside for the opening of the city’s first Crofter and Artisan Market.
What’s a crofter?
“A crofter was a person that worked the land in various ways. Whether farming, livestock, running a cottage craft businesses. Vegetable or flower growing,” said Lauren Pignatello of Swallowtail Farm and Creamery in North Whitefield, who fits into all of the above.
In April, she will open the new year-round Sunday market at 84 Cove St., which also is the home of the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market.
“This isn’t a farmers market per se, at least according to city standards. It’s under the makers market guidelines, where everything is produced by the person,” she said.
Scores of vendors from across Maine are lining up for the chance to peddle their wares in Portland’s emerging neighborhood of brewers, coffee roasters and artists. So far, the interest is statewide.
Goat milk caramels from Copper Tail Farm in Waldoboro, Herbal Revolution’s mineral and fire tonics, Dulse and Rugosa seaweed body care, Shepherds and Such Homestead beeswax and wool craft and Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Company are all on board.
“It offers more diversity to the public as well as an opportunity for new food businesses to have a place to vend. And the crafters, too,” said Pignatello, who will be serving sandwiches, smoothies and chaga brownies at her new on-site Milk and Honey Cafe during the market.
Because a food-focused makers market is new for Portland, the city’s licensing code may need a tweak. Unlicensed vendors looking to sell and sample food at the market must pay $89 for a temporary food services establishment license, according to Janice Gardner, the city’s business licensing administrator.
The license has to be renewed every two weeks, or after three Sundays. For many homesteaders the fee and process is a hard hurdle to clear.
“Eighty-nine dollars is steep for vendors that may be new on food scene,” Gardner said. “We want to make that less onerous and find a balance with all parties to create a different license.”
Gardner said a change, drafted by the city clerk and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and approved by the City Council, could take months.
“We are hopeful and optimistic that the city wants to work something out,” Pignatello said. “The idea is to support more producers and homesteaders.”
And generate some fun on a day when many businesses are closed.
“Sunday is the new Saturday,” the founder said. “So many people are looking for something to do on Sundays and Portland’s food scene is out of control.”
The market opens April 10 and runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday.