Armed with shopping bags and a hankering for some fresh asparagus or homemade mozzarella, shoppers braved impending thunderstorms Tuesday for the opening day of Lexington’s farmers' market.
As storm clouds gathered overhead, radio personality and Lexington resident Wally Brine rang the opening bell at 2:00 p.m., with shoppers already tasting Pam’s black bean salsa and perusing the perennials and handmade pasta.
This is the market’s sixth year, according to Deb Jackson, one of the managers. Thirty different vendors set up shop at the market, which is open through October. Some vendors, such as Merton’s Maple Syrup, will come in the fall, while others will be open every week.
Liza Connolly, another manager, said the Lexington market stands out because of the variety of food offered—everything from lamb to fresh mozzarella to baked goods. She said vendors have responded to an increased demand for prepared food
Last summer was tough, she said, due to the bad weather and the bad economy. Yet this year the market has new vendors, including Samira’s Homemade, which will offer homemade Egyptian and Lebanese food, including several varieties of hummus, and Deborah’s Kitchen, which sells spreadable fruit and relish.
Wine Ridge Farm, purveyor of goat cheese, is another new vendor. “It’s hard to get cheese people,” Connolly said.
The 55 volunteers help with the market throughout the year, she said, fundraising, finding corporate sponsors, and planning programs for kids. Later in the summer, the Kids Cooking Green program will bring elementary students to the market, where they will meet farmers and learn about the food.
The volunteers also do a head count of shoppers, with about 700 to 1000 people coming each week, Connolly said.
Among the vendors, there were familiar faces. One returner is Rita Wollmering, the founder of The HERB FARMacy, a Salisbury-based 10-acre certified organic farm. Wollmering said the farm focuses on herbs, old-fashioned flowers, and heirloom vegetables, “things our parents and grandparents had in their gardens.”
Linda Lee, a Lexington resident, dropped by Wollmering’s table to pick up some cherry tomatoes and asparagus. She said she was waiting for Wollmering to bring back the seasoned salt and vanilla extract that was a big hit last year.
Lee, who now volunteers for the market, said she likes to get most of her food at the market when it is in season, dropping by to pick up fresh vegetables and meats—“and a few too many baked goods.”
Some people from surrounding towns said Lexington’s market was worth making a trip.
Nancy Newhouse, a Winchester resident and a self-described “groupie of all the different farmers' markets” said she has discovered local bread makers and picked up a necklace made in Africa at markets in Winchester, Lexington, and Arlington. At the Lexington market, she said, “I’ve found a new source for hummus,” gesturing to Samira’s Homemade.
Newhouse said she comes to the market to eat healthier, local food. “I can’t wait until they open every season,” she said.
Ally Cummings, an Arlington resident, manned the lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes at Busa Farm’s table. Now a senior at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Cummings said she has been working at the Lexington’s farmers' market since she was a freshman.
The strawberries are popular when they are in season, Cumming said, as are the basil and tomatoes. “We have the best corn ever,” she added.
About thirty minutes after the market opened for the year, a sudden deluge of rain, accompanied with lightening and thunder, sent shoppers scurrying for cover under the tents.
For those that the rain kept away, the farmers’ market will be open on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Woburn Street, through October 26.