Patrick O’Connor of the Recorder published an article about an exciting plan we are hatching for downtown South Deerfield. The story also ran in the Daily Hampshire Gazette this morning.
SOUTH DEERFIELD – A local businessman wants to bring a farmers market to town.
”I want to celebrate the fact that we’re a farming town,” said Max Hartshorne, owner of GoNomad Cafe. Hartshorne is making a proposal to the Board of Selectmen today.
He complained that the nearest farmers markets are in Amherst, Northampton and Greenfield. ”Deerfield is full of farms,”he said. ”Yet, we have to drive 10 miles to a go to a farmers market.”
According to the town’s 2006 Open Space and Recreation Plan, 70 percent of Deerfield is prime and productive farmland, with more than 4,800 acres being farmed. Hartshorne proposes that the town block off Park Street for the market. Park Street is a short road that connects Sugarloaf and North Main streets.
The market would be located across from Hartshorne’s Internet cafe, and he said his other motive for having a farmers market is to bring more people into downtown.
”We want to be able to promote downtown and promote businesses in Deerfield,” he said. ”It’s in everybody’s best interest.”
Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness said, ”I’m really excited about this. I know the board supports it.” People have talked about starting a farmers market, but no one stepped forward in the past to organize it, she said.
Her only concern, she said, is that Deerfield’s market, which is being proposed for Saturdays, would compete with Greenfield’s market. ”If there are enough farmers, I think it’s fine,” Ness said.
Hartshorne said he would propose having 11 vendors, which would equal a vendor for each parking space on Park Street. He has not sought out farmers yet because he wants to get the go-ahead from the town first, he said.
However, he said three local farmers have told him that they would be interested in being vendors.
Farmer David Jackson, a longtime friend of Hartshorne’s, said he wants to participate. Jackson, owner of Enterprise Farm in Whately, farms about 96 acres, on which he grows organic vegetables, including asparagus and zucchini.
Between 25 and 30 percent of his business is done in farmers markets in Boston and Northampton, he said.
Although there are many local farm stands, Jackson said farmers markets serve a different purpose. Because markets are open at set times once a week, they become social places, he said.
”It’s a wonderful place for community people to get together and for neighbors to rub elbows,” Jackson said.
In his opinion, Deerfield is ripe for such a place. Years ago, many local people had their own gardens or knew someone with a large garden or farm from whom they could get their produce, he said.
Today, many young families who move into town have none of those connections.
But they still want fresh, locally grown food, he said.
”I think the customer base for organic and local produce is much greater than it used to be, and that’s why I’m excited about this,” Jackson said.
Hartshorne will be making his proposal at the weekly Board of Selectmen meeting today at 7:30 p.m. in the town offices.