The last weekly outdoor Bangor Farmers Market of the season is set for this Sunday. When the market switches to its biweekly, indoor winter schedule, it will be in a new location near the University of Maine at Augusta’s Bangor campus.
In previous years, the indoor winter markets were held in the function room at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. on Front Street in downtown Bangor. This year, the market will move to a city-owned property at 50 Cleveland St. The Bangor City Council approved a lease for the location at its Oct. 16 meeting, at a cost of $1,200 for all 10 Sundays that the market will use the space.
The new winter market spot is located just off Maine Avenue, near the Challenger Learning Center and the Pine Tree Inn, between Texas Avenue and Venture Way and not far from UMA-Bangor. The move was necessitated because the Sea Dog is renovating its banquet space this winter. Space and access to easy loading for market vendors was also a factor.
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“We need more space and loading access to support our current members and grow the winter market,” said Billi Barker of the Enchanted Kitchen at Firefly Farm and the YumBus, who coordinates the market with Clayton Carter of Fail Better Farm in Etna.
Additionally, the new location puts the winter market closer to different neighborhoods in Bangor, including the Fairmount and Capehart neighborhoods.
“We’re hopeful that the shorter distance to Capehart will be good for our SNAP and one-to-one customers,” said Barker, referring to market customers who utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as the Maine Market Bucks program, which allows SNAP customers to get a dollar in redeemable “market bucks” for each SNAP dollar they spend. Those Market Bucks can be used at more than 50 markets, farm stands and community supported agriculture farm share locations across the state.
Brittany Hopkins, who coordinates SNAP and Market Bucks for the Bangor Farmers Market, said that while the Cleveland Street location won’t be walkable for those who live near downtown, it will be much easier to access for those who live near Bangor International Airport and UMA-Bangor, as well as for the many customers who drive to the market.
Statewide, the amount of SNAP dollars spent at Maine farmers markets was up around 17 percent during the summer of 2019 over last year, according to the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets.
While Hopkins hasn’t run the numbers for Bangor, she said, “We’ve felt that increase here in Bangor, for sure. We’ll definitely have to see how this first year goes at the new location, but we’re really excited to see what happens.”
The Cleveland Street building was once part of Dow Air Force Base, but has been owned by the city for the past three years, housing a variety of government and military operations. The city completed structural work on the building earlier this month, in time for the winter market to begin.
“It’s rustic, but it’s big and we can work with it,” Barker said. “Our farmers are really thrilled that there’s a loading dock, and they don’t have to carry huge boxes of heavy vegetables.”
The winter market is held biweekly, on the first and third Sundays of the month beginning in December, and running through the end of April, when it will return outdoors to downtown Bangor and resume its weekly schedule. Though there are fewer vendors than the summer market at Abbott Square, across from the Bangor Public Library, market-goers can expect seasonal vegetables, meat and eggs, bread and pastries, dairy products, apples and cider, dried and fresh flowers and locally roasted coffee.