Annual Farmers Market Kicks-Off on June 2

The Town of Manchester’s farmers market season, which includes the Spruce Street Farmers Market and the inaugural Northwest Park Farmers Market, is set to kick off on June 2. With products including locally-grown fruit and vegetables, fresh baked goods, food trucks and artisans, the farmers market series aims to provide the Manchester community with a place to source healthy, locally-grown food.

The fifth-annual Spruce Street Farmers Market will run on Wednesdays, June 2 through August 11 from 4:30 PM-7:30 PM at Market Field, 153 & 163 Spruce Street. The Northwest Park Farmers Market will then kick off its season on Wednesdays, August 18 through October 6 from 4:30 PM-7:30 PM at Northwest Park, 448 Tolland Turnpike.

In addition to serving as a source for local foods, both farmers markets accept EBT and WIC payment. Both markets will also double the value of SNAP purchases up to $10 (spend $10 using your EBT card to get an additional $10 to spend on fresh produce) through partnership with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and End Hunger Connecticut.

Cynde Acanto, the coordinator for both the Spruce Street and Northwest Park Farmers Markets, has prioritized the diversification of vendors and products to ensure that the market series meets the needs of the local Manchester community. Now entering her second year as the markets’ coordinator, Acanto said that she wants to continue to grow the series, both in terms of the market’s reach and product variety.

“Our customers and vendors have asked for a longer market season, and we feel that a second market at the beautiful Northwest Park will be a benefit for the [Manchester community] as well as the vendors,” Acanto said.

While both markets have the fresh, local produce that one would expect from a farmers market, the Spruce Street and Northwest Park Farmers Markets pride themselves on being an inclusive space for a varied amount of local business owners, Acanto said. With products including gluten-free baked goods, fresh fruits & vegetables and several vegan offerings, the farmers market series hopes to have something for every kind of shopper, Acanto said.

“Our vendor lists are thoughtfully curated to include diverse foods and business owners. We love seeing shoppers trying foods they haven’t previously been exposed to,” Acanto said. “For example, Amazing Ackee is one of our most popular vendors and will be offering their vegan Jamaican patties at both markets.”

Now in her second year with the market series, Chantal Thomas, the owner of Amazing Ackee, hopes to continue to grow her young yet thriving business.Thomas, whose vegan Jamaican patties “showcase the versatility of ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit,” said the Spruce Street Farmers Market was a tremendous personal success.

“Customers came out and supported us overwhelmingly; we sold out of patties at almost every single market,” Thomas said. “We increased our customer base and formed amazing business connections with the persons we met.”

Like almost every aspect of our daily lives, farmers markets and food vendors have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and related safety measures and protocols. While this past year has certainly been full of new challenges, Thomas said that has been a powerful reminder of what she has been able to accomplish in the face of adversity.

“COVID has forced us to think more tactically, [to] be more willing to explore new ways of doing things and to be ever more thankful for each bit of customer support, good review and kind words of encouragement,” Thomas said.

Nick DeLuca, the owner of DeLuca Family Farm, experienced a similar situation to that of Thomas and countless other small businesses . DeLuca, who also serves as a high school science teacher at East Hartford High School, said that even with the multitude of challenges presented by the pandemic, it was a great learning experience for his young farm.

“My whole business plan changed. I was in several farmers markets, but a bunch of them had to shut down,” DeLuca said. “However, I ended up learning a lot last year, both in terms of farming and running a business.”

DeLuca offers a variety of products, from the classic staple crops such as tomatoes, corn & zucchini to the more unique, such as eight different kinds of hot peppers and four different breeds of eggplant. Now returning for his second year at the market series, DeLuca hopes to grow on the success that was the 2020 market season.

“I’m sure I gained some customers last year because people didn’t want to go to grocery stores last year,” DeLuca said. “I’m hoping to build off on that and show them the value of fresh, local produce.”

Wilkinson Farm, one of the market’s longest tenured vendors, will return for their fifth Spruce Street Farmers Market. Wilkinson Farm, a Columbia-based farm run by husband and wife Mat and Cindy Wilkinson, will return to market nights with honey, maple syrup and maple candies. Mat Wilkinson, whose farm is the 7th generation of Wilkinson farmers, excitedly anticipates a return to the community feel of Manchester’s farmers markets.

“It’s been different this past year; it’s often hard to replicate the community feel of a farmers market during COVID,” Wilkinson said. “However, Manchester did a phenomenal job bringing the community feel back to the market.”

For more information about the market series or to inquire about a vendor booth, please contact Cynde Acanto.

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