Published DateBy Tom Eastman
CONWAY — A big (green) thumbs up.
That was the positive assessment of North Conway Farmers' Market board members Kristen Hjelmstad and Glen Mitchell after the first market was held on the grounds of the North Conway Community Center Sunday morning.
The market will be held Sundays throughout the summer.
“We heard nothing but good comments from vendors and customers alike,” said Hjelmstad in a phone interview Monday about the new market, which Mitchell and fellow farmer Sean Kenney have dubbed “NoCo FaMa Market.”
“I was pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed by the turnout. We want to thank everyone for their support, from the Valley Originals, which donated gift certificates for the raffle, and North Conway Rotary, who helped with the banner, to local musicians and volunteers,” said Mitchell.
Hjelmstad and Mitchell said the market opened with 15 vendors. More are on a waiting list, and will be added.
The early morning's rain had cleared by the time of the opening at 9 a.m. and held off for the market's hours of operation through 1 p.m. Attendance was steady until just after noon, when the crowds thinned out a bit.
There was plenty of parking in front of the center, as well as across the street at the parking lot by the offices of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Hjelmstad and Mitchell said the market's offerings are likely to expand in coming weeks as the season progresses now that summer is here.
“We did not have a lot of produce, but that is due to the late growing season we've experienced, and that will be added. Our two bakeries ran out of bread this first week, but that was due to not knowing what the demand would be for the initial market, so they were waiting to see. We also have some people like Sap House Meadery who are getting their approvals from the State Liquor Commission and once they have it they expect to be here,” sad Hjelmstad.
Dick Delaney, of Delaney's Hole-in-the-Wall, and president of the Valley Originals independent restaurant association, and Wally Campbell, executive director of the Valley Originals, were on hand, as was member Terry O'Brien of the Red Parka Pub. The Valley Originals have embraced the farm-to-table concept of using local produce as much as possible as the “green” sustainable movement continues to take hold.
“I am sure it [using local produce] will increase our food costs some, but we feel it's well worth it,” said O'Brien while shopping on the grounds Sunday morning.
Delaney and Campbell joined Hjelmstad and Mitchell and fellow farmer/market board member Sean Kenney, along with Cindy and Kurt Detzer of the North Conway Community Center, in a sparkling cider toast just prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the steps of the community center. Cutting the ribbon were Kenney and Suzie Boon's young children, Cadence, 4, and Saljal, 2.
Board members had originally hoped to have held a weekly market at the town-owned Whitaker Homesite but met with resistance from Conway selectmen, who raised concerns about the market's impact on parking and liability issues.
Those issues have now all been addressed, with the market paying rent to the North Conway Community Center. Parking is not an issue at the new site.
On behalf of the town, Conway town manager Earl Sires wished the market well in an interview last week. Market board member William Abbott said those issues are now all “water under the bridge,” and that the market looks forward to success at the new location.
“There were some concerns by selectmen early on [about using the Whitaker site] but I don't think they were aimed at the whole concept of a farmers' market — it was more about the logistics associated with it,” said Sires last week. “I think those have been worked out. From an economic development perspective, I think it will foster local agriculture while serving as a gathering space for the community. The town wishes them good luck. I think farmers' markets in general do a lot for downtown economic development.”
Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, concurred.
“I think the market will bring traffic into the village on a Sunday. People will stop here after church; some will come into town for the market. I think this is a worthy activity to have in the village,” said Crawford last week. “We have several local farm stands as well which add to our agricultural story which adds to our local economic development. I think this is a great thing, and hopefully next year with a year under their belt we'll see it grow into something even bigger.”
Music and more
Providing musical entertainment in the center's gazebo for the first week were members of the Mountaintop Music String Band. They are to perform every two weeks, according to band member Russ Lanoie, with Lanoie welcoming any and all acoustic players to join them.
“We had at least 11 folks total, some leaving early and some coming late,” said Lanoie, who along with his wife, Joan, and daughter Jennie Blair, have long been supporters of local agriculture. (They have donated a portion of their property off Tasker Hill Road in Madison, for example, to the MWV Green Team for a community garden the past few years.) “We had a great mix of fiddlers, accordion, mandolin, guitars, gutbucket bass and a whistle for a little while. We encourage any experienced as well as budding musicians who like upbeat acoustic music to join us, even if only to learn from some of us who've been doing this stuff for years.”
Vendors the first week included Mountain Garden Veggies, White Gates Farm, Heartseed Farm, Cordwood House Brick-Oven Bakers, McKaella's Sweet Shop, Frontside Grind, White Mountain Cheese Company, Young Maple Ridge Sugarhouse, Sunnyfield Bakery, and Kearsarge Mountain Soaps and Sundries.
Other local markets are located in Jackson (Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning June 28); Effingham/Center Ossipee (Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and Tamworth. Markets are also held in Lovell, Maine (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Berlin (Thursdays, 3 to 7 p.m.); Laconia (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon), Laconia Outdoor Marketplace (Thursdays, 3 to 7 p.m.); Wakefield (Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Wolfeboro (Thursdays, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.).
For more information, visit the state Department of Agriculture's website, www.http://agriculture.nh.gov.