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Greens at the Salem Farmers Market. Courtesy photo.




May markets

While many farmers markets open in June, here are some of the ones that start their season in May.
 
Concord Farmers Market
Where: Capitol Street, downtown Concord
When: Opens May 16. Runs Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Rain or shine. (Market will be in operation during the Main Street construction).
See: concordfarmersmarket.com
Credit and SNAP/EBT accepted. 
 
Salem NH Farmers Market
Where: Salem Market Place, 224 Broadway, Salem
When: Held year round. Runs Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rain or shine. Outdoor market April to November.
See: salemnhfarmersmarket.org
Credit, debit and SNAP/EBT accepted. 
 
Exeter Farmers Market
Where: Swasey Parkway, Exeter
When: Opens May 7. Runs Thursdays from 2:15 to 6 p.m. Rain or shine
See: seacoastgrowers.org/exeter-farmers-market/
Credit, debit and SNAP/EBT accepted.
 
Portsmouth Farmers Market
Where: City Hall, 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth
When: Opens May 2. Runs Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
See: seacoastgrowers.org/portsmouth-farmers-market/
Credit, debit and SNAP/EBT accepted.




Off to the market
A look inside the local farmers market

05/07/15
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



On any given day of the week come mid-June, all you need to do is take a trip to a neighboring town to find yourself knee-deep in New Hampshire-grown produce, dairy products and artisan crafts. While it’s still a bit early in the farmers market season, a handful of outdoor markets are welcoming patrons to shop for local goods in early May. 

With veteran vendors and new faces readying their wares, one wonders what it takes to sell vegetables, cookies, woodwork or breads at a local farmers market. And once inside, what does a day at the market look like from the vendor perspective? To get a look at the inner workings of the farmers market, the Hippo spoke with three people well-versed in both selling at and managing local farmers markets.
 
Getting started
The first step to selling at a farmers market is having an application approved, a selection process that differs based on the market. Wayne Hall Jr., president of the Concord Farmers Market, said new vendors are decided on by the current market membership.
“Our vendors are all in charge. We’re a membership-based organization who makes the decision and does the voting,” he said. Hall, also a vendor at the market, oversees the membership and makes sure voting and operational procedures are followed. “It’s a really super well-rounded market, which again people coming in and out is decided on by the vendors,” Hall said.
Krysti Battistelli, market manager for the Exeter Farmers Market, said prospective vendors go through a jury process to ensure product quality before getting approval. Seacoast Growers Association, which also runs markets in Portsmouth, Durham and Dover, is member-run and makes up the committees that jury for new vendors.
In other cases, new vendors are chosen by the head of the market. Jane Lang, founder and coordinator of the Salem Farmers Market, is the decision-maker for which vendors sell each week.
 
Meeting the criteria
While each market’s entry process varies, certain things ring true for farmers market vendors across New Hampshire. The Concord market is made up of about 40 members with a selection of beef products, produce, body care products, cheeses, wine, beer and more. From time to time, guest vendors fill in if a regular vendor is sick or can’t make it. Hall said this process can serve as a good try-out for potential membership or to see if the product fills a niche for the market.
Though being a guest member is a good trial period, there is no guarantee that it will lead to membership. The regular vendors in Concord are very keen to keep a certain atmosphere with a good vibe for the customers, products without repeat, and keeping vendor numbers manageable so guests aren’t overwhelmed. They look for New Hampshire-based products or businesses, ideally within the greater Concord area, as well as diversity of product. 
“We don’t want to flood the market with dog treats or beef products,” he said.
For Lang, however, giving patrons multiple options for the same product is what she wants to see in Salem. The market (which operates year round and heads outdoors for the warmer months) has vendors selling fruits and vegetables, dairy products, breads and bakery items, prepared food and crafts. For items like honey and maple syrup, Lang only wants one vendor for each, but when it comes to produce, she’s happy to see a little variety.
“When [people] think of a farmers market, they think of a more expensive product,” she said. By having different farmers bring the same crop, she hopes people of all financial statuses can find fresh items. For example, say one farmer is selling lettuce for $6 and another for $3. The difference in price might reflect the growing practices, giving more choice to the customer.
“Our markets are made up of 60 percent agriculture, 20 percent craft and 20 percent prepared food vendors so we try to [keep the market]...mainly focused around local farming,” Battistelli said. Like the Concord market, she said Exeter tries to avoid vendor overlap, keeping it different for patrons who return each week. 
Battistelli said criteria for new members can vary in terms of time commitment. Some things to look out for are whether or not a vendor sells at other markets and their ability to cope in a busy atmosphere. One thing they won’t budge on, though, is location of  origin. Vendors must be from Rockingham or Strafford counties or York county in Maine.
“A lot of times we recommend they try doing one market a month because we have four markets,” she said. “If they did sell out on a busy market...we work with them and figure out their best plan for their schedule. They can always add more if it’s working out for them.”
 
A day in the life
For most people, going to the farmers market only takes a short walk or drive down the street with a tote bag to fill with fresh goodies. But for those who come to the market to sell, the day looks quite a bit different.
In addition to serving as president, Hall is a vendor for Lewis Farm, owned by his uncle Harry Lewis. Based on his experience selling at markets for over a decade, Hall can attest to the effort it takes to sell at a farmers market.
On a typical market day, he gets up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. to pick the produce. “The only thing we might pre-pick is tomatoes. Outside of that any leafy greens are picked that morning,” Hall said. “My uncle is very stringent as far as product...he only likes it hours old.”
Once the vegetables have been gathered from the fields and greenhouse, they’re rinsed with water and placed in clean plastic tubs, then loaded into a box truck. Arriving at the market around 7 a.m., he makes sure the street is closed and starts to set up tables with other vendors as they trickle in.
Though it adds more work for any farmer or business owner on top of a regular schedule, Hall said that the effort and time commitment is absorbed in the publicity the market provides. 
“You really can’t pay for advertising like that ...it’s well worth it,” he said. “If you take the time to be with those customers and make them feel welcome, strangers become friends. People are very supportive of their local farms.”
“We’re helping them build the farm,” Lang said. “They’re going to go where it’s going to benefit and help them bring the income they need to build on their farm.” 
 
As seen in the May 7, 2015 issue of the Hippo.
 





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