boston.com Business your connection to The Boston Globe
Business Notebook

Farmers' markets tap into tradition

Diversity of products key as Marblehead marks 10th

JACK WELCH JACK WELCH

The cheese guy stands beside the meat guy, who stands beside the vegetable guy at the Marblehead Farmers' Market.

Not your average farmers' market? Think again.

It's the way life used to be for Bay State farmers. And it's the newest recipe to lure consumers to the 130 farmers' markets that have sprouted up across the state, according to the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers' Markets.

"It's very traditional," said Hannah Freedberg, community outreach director at the nonprofit organization, based in Waltham. "It goes back 300 or more years, when all of our food shopping was done at the market. If you didn't live on a farm, then you went to the market and purchased from each producer."

The markets ring up more than $15 million in annual revenues statewide, the federation estimates. Additionally, for every $1 spent at a farmers' market, at least $1 more is spent at a shop nearby, according to the federation.

"We don't always focus on the economics," said Jeff Cole, executive director of the federation. "But it is something I tell communities that might be questioning volunteers that want to start a market."

Governor Deval Patrick declared last week as Massachusetts Farmers' Markets Week, and it kicked off Monday with the 23d annual Tomato Festival and Contest at City Hall Plaza in Boston. Most farmers' markets are open through the fall harvest season, including several in Essex and Middlesex counties, according to the state Department of Agricultural Resources.

The Marblehead Farmers' Market, celebrating its 10th anniversary, will mark the milestone on Saturday with a special program of speakers, prizes, and balloons. The market, held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Veterans Middle School on Vine Street, draws about 1,000 shoppers each week, an organizer said.

"I think the diversity of what the farms offer is the big drawing card," said Don Morgan, who runs the Marblehead market. "There is always something that people don't expect to find."

The market has 12 vendors, including dairy and vegetable farmers, with about half from Essex County, including Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and Clark Farm in Danvers. The rest are from across New England, including a cow cheese farm in Vermont, a beef farm in Brimfield, and a goat cheese farm in Fitchburg.

A recent survey in Essex County showed that a labor shortage forced many local farms to cut back on taking part in weekend markets. To boost participation, Marblehead visited farmers' markets that do not meet on Saturdays to recruit vendors.

"We weren't trying to steal anyone's farmers," Morgan said. "That's why we went to markets on Thursday or Friday. We were able to convince some to come. We're lucky, because the town supports our farmers' market very well."

For a list of farmers' markets, visit mass.gov/agr/massgrown.

Welch fans inspired to dig deep for club

Corporate sponsors are lining up for "An Evening With Jack Welch," a fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem, slated for Sept. 18 at Salem State College. Organizers said $120,000 has been raised so far from local businesses, including $50,000 from title sponsor Eastern Bank of Lynn.

Additional major sponsors include SalemFive Bank, Cabot Money Management of Salem, and the GE Good Neighbors Fund of Lynn, which have each pledged $10,000, as well as Salem State College and Professional Roofing Contractors of Danvers, which both chipped in $5,000, and Danversport Yacht Club added $1,000.

The Boys & Girls Club has set a target of $150,000 to be raised through sponsorships and ticket sales. "This is our single largest fund-raiser in our whole 138-year history," said AnnMarie Tanzella, the club's executive director. "Without Mr. Welch, I don't know where we'd be."

Welch, the retired chief executive of General Electric Co., last year pledged to donate $600,000 over five years to the club, where he was a member while growing up in Salem. The money is earmarked to plan programs and expand staff and services for the club, which expects to have 300 members this fall, Tanzella said.

But Welch also has chimed in with expert advice on how to plot the financial future of the club, which has had a revolving door of executive directors since the death of its popular leader, Stephen M. O'Grady, eight years ago. "Mr. Welch didn't just fly in here with a bag of money," said Tanzella, a veteran of Boys & Girls Clubs in Waltham and Woburn who has led the Salem club since late 2005. "He wants us to come up with a plan, to make sure we're here for years to come."

The club primarily serves low-income children, ages 8 to 18, who are charged $10 per year to take part in its programs, including sports and a homework club, that run after school until early evening. The club is based at the former St. Mary School on Hawthorne Boulevard in downtown Salem.

At next month's fund-raiser, Welch will participate in a question-and-answer session hosted by Jonathan Hall, a news anchor for Channel 7 in Boston. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Salem State's Mainstage Theatre.

Businesses interested in becoming a sponsor should contact either Tanzella or Ray Billings, the club's development director, at 978-744-0915. General admission tickets are $75. To purchase tickets, contact Ace Ticket at 800-697-3287 or online at AnEveningWithJackWelch.com

Datebook

The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a special summer social on Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Landing Restaurant, 7 Central St. in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Tickets are $20. For more information, call the Cape Ann chamber at 978-283-1601.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.

Related articles on Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES