hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

April 25, 2013

35 years and going strong

Farmers market prepares to open again -- but with more to offer

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Spring in New England means anticipation: The trees begin to bud and small flowers break through the crusty soil.

In Haverhill, the city waits for its farmers market.

This year, marks the 35th consecutive year that the city will have the market, which allows local farmers and other merchants to sell their goods, while customers shop for fresh, home-grown produce.

Although it will be two months before the market begins operating, organizers said they are already making plans.

“We don’t have our full list of vendors yet this early in the season, but we have heard that most of them will return,” said Team Haverhill member Jeff Grassie. He and his wife, Lisa Marzilli, organize and coordinate the market.

Run by the non-profit organization Team Haverhill, the market will hold its 18-week produce fair every Saturday from June 29 to Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Bailey Boulevard, next to the police station.

Parking is on the street and in the lot behind the station.

“We’re going back,” said Sara Howard of Madison’s Sweet Treats, who runs the business named after her 5-year-old daughter, Madison.

The market helped Howard get her business going three years ago, and has always been a good event for her to show off her gluten-free products.

“It’s good for Madison, too,’’ Sara Howard said. “She’s learning to use the cash register and understand the way this works.’’

Grassie said organizers plan to continue the mix of produce vendors, crafters and makers of other home goods, such as local wines sold by Willow Spring of Haverhill.

“We’ll have a band for some music, but we’re still not sure of the schedule for that, yet,’’ Grassie said.

Haverhill’s farmers first organized their farmers market in 1978.

“It wasn’t really as organized as it is now. The local farmers got together and sold their produce, but there weren’t a lot of us then, and it just got smaller’’ over time, said Stephanie Lesiczka of Wally’s Vegetables.

In its fifth year as the revived farmers market since Team Haverhill took it over and reorganized it in 2009, the market has added new events to its weekly agenda. They include children’s activities, crafts, vendors, live music, and licensed wine sales, which began two years ago.

The new venue appealed to innovative agriculturists like Donnie Fletcher of Fletcher Community Farm at 595 East Broadway. Fletcher has farmed the family land since 2010. The farmers market gives him a venue to offer products unique to the area, such as pecans or items that come from root farming.

Fletcher plans to return to the farmers market this year, and, again, bring something different and healthy to it. Last year, he introduced freshly grown pecans, shipped to Haverhill from Oklahoma.

“They went over really well,” Fletcher said. “This year I’m introducing root foods, which include multiple varieties of potatoes, onions and garlic. We’re focusing on these because we’re good at growing them, they are well suited to our soils and some varieties can store for three to 12 months.”

Another regular in past years, Marlene Stasinos who, with her husband, Chris, runs Chris’ Farm Stand at 436 Salem St., plans to return to the farmers’ market this year.

Marlene Stasinos said she plans to offer peas, lettuce, beets, spinach and other salad vegetables at the market. They will bring pumpkins to the market as the fall months approach, and they hold their own pumpkin festival every Saturday at their farm stand.

With the farmers market just two months away, Grassie said he is starting to receive applications and plan the vendor and sponsor slots for the market’s opening day.

“We only have a few applications returned, now, but soon they’ll be rolling in, so we’re getting ready,” he said.

Updates and more information are available at http://www.haverhillfarmersmarket.org/.