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Westbrook is about to have its own farmers’ market, thanks to the efforts of local farmer Bonnie Hall. The farmers’ market will open on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. It will take place on the lawn in front of the Teresa Mulvey Municipal Building from 4 to 7 p.m.
The market will run for 20 weeks, with the last one for the year scheduled for Oct. 4.
Bonnie Hall places a premium on fresh, local food, and Maple Breeze Farm has been in the family of her husband, Westbrook Selectman John Hall, since 1635.
“It’s very important to me, being a farmer, to have the community know their farmers and know their food,” Hall said. “This whole movement of getting to know farmers and know where their food comes from—it’s working out beautifully for Westbrook folks to know who’s growing food in their area and have fresh food for 20 weeks.”
At one time there was a farmers’ market at the Westbrook Mall, according to Hall, but this will be the first in the town center. The market was approved by the Board of Selectmen and then the Zoning Commission in late March, giving Hall the green light to proceed.
Maple Breeze Farm will provide fresh beef, pork, chicken and duck eggs, and maple syrup. It will also supply wares from John Hall’s cousins at Sweet Pea Cheese, located on the Hayes family farm in North Granby; Sweet Pea Cheese makes cheese from cows’ and goats’ milk, yogurt, and pasteurized but non-homogenized milk.
The market will also provide Westbrook shoppers with fish, freshly baked breads and other bakery items, vegetables, and honey.
“I’m hoping to have fresh mushrooms from Killingworth,” Hall said. “And I’m hoping to get some salsa. And then we’ll have the berries once they come into season. I’m just really excited about feeding Westbrook. It’s a collaborative effort. We can’t feed the world, but as farmers working together we can feed our friends and neighbors.”
Getting the farmers’ market going required first meeting with the town’s health director, Sonia Marino.
“She needs to be on board and we want everybody to be safe with food handling and preparation,” Hall said. “She’s been wonderful to work with and she’s so excited to have this health component with our residents, to have them have access to fresh local produce and food.”
Hall also ran the vendors’ contracts by town attorney Michael Wells. And she put a lot of thought, she explained, into the time and location of the market.
“We needed Route 1 access. That’s prime,” she explained. “From Maine to Florida, access to Route 1 is really important. It’s a safe location and the town’s Mulvey center was the place that kept coming back to my mind. We’ll be on the southwest side of the front lawn, back by the building itself. There’s one-way traffic in and out and plenty of parking.”
Friday afternoon is the perfect time to shop for summer weekend meals, Hall said, and the 4 to 7 p.m. window gives people time to come after work.
Getting approval late in March has limited options somewhat, Hall explained. She’s hoping to get a few food trucks to come, but many of them are already committed to other farmers’ markets. She’s also reached out to local musicians, hoping for some low-key music, “just so people have that wonderful vibe—they can eat, they can sit on the lawn and listen to some music and have some goodies.”
Her efforts have already been met with enthusiasm.
“I put it out yesterday afternoon on Facebook and I was just was really encouraged with all of the comments and all of the people that are really excited,” she said. “I’m just hopeful that they’ll be able to come out to support it and keep it going.
“It’s a full circle to know where your food is coming from and trust your farmer, who’s growing it,” she added. “Ask the questions—you can’t do that in a grocery store, but you can do that at a farmers’ market and really have that connection with your food.”
Hall is hopeful that local restaurants connect with farmers and move to a farm-to-table model.
“There’s nothing better than having fresh arugula that’s just been picked,” she said. “People are going to eat well this summer.”
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