By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI.org News staff
That trend has reversed in a big way in
with nearly 50 regular farmers markets today, several running through the
winter. Rhode Island
Starting a farmers market these days involves both an old-school and New Age mindset — selling local vegetables, meat and seafood while making communities more personable, walkable and prosperous. This dual thinking helped Katie McAllister design a revamped farmers market, which opens May 5.
"This is about the community of
and a model for what can be done in rural towns," said McAllister, manager
of the forthcoming Cross
Mills Farmers Market. Charlestown
To prepare for the project, McAllister, who lives in North Kingstown, has worked at local farmers markets, done research and attended a farmers market conference in
. All of which
she hopes will help her create the New York Main
Street, or "solid center," never had. Charlestown
"It's about the community. It's about bringing new ideas in. It's not just about food," she said during a recent brainstorming session with farmers, chefs, caterers, coffee makers and other market experts from in and around Charlestown.
Having the support of a local business owner also helps. John Tylawsky owns the 1-acre lot on
Old Post Road where
the market will be held. An engineer, Tylawsky presented a 3-D video design of
the market space.
Tylawsky intends to create an ongoing farmers market atmosphere to help incubate new businesses. The long-term vision involves the market, plus a shared building with a commercial kitchen for smaller businesses, such as caterers and artisan bakers. If successful, the businesses can move across the street into permanent storefronts Tylawsky also owns.
"The farmers market is like an experiment to see what works," he said.
On-site cooking classes, fund drives and food-scrap collection for a community garden will help give residents and shoppers an appreciation for local food and the environment.
"The farmers market would be a great way to come full circle about what's happening in town," said Susie Ferhmann, director of the community garden.
Fehrmann intends to expand the town's organic garden to provide more produce to local food kitchens and help the needy in
"Everybody is vested in this garden and we don't really know whose around
us and who doesn't have enough to eat," she said. Charlestown
McAllister agreed that poverty in
like may rural towns, is common. "If we continue to support each other,
we're all going to grow," she said. Charlestown
Ken Ayars, head of the state Division of Agriculture, noted that promoting farmers markets and local agriculture has been a deliberate strategy for more than a decade.
in the country for direct farm sales through collaboratives, farmers markets
and roadside stands. Agriculture is also an important driver of the economy,
while farmers markets in particular have a positive influence on a community.
He noted that in 1998 Rhode Island
had only nine farmers markets. Rhode Island
"They're not just a place to buy salad, (a farmers market) has a certain atmosphere. It adds a lot of flavor to
Ayars said. Rhode Island
The Cross Mill Farmers Market starts May 5 and will be open Fridays through Sundays beginning May 11.