Nicole Bogin, manager of the Cape Ann Farmers Market, says it's just possible that the Gloucester-based market has grown into the biggest farmers market in metro Boston.
"It's something Cape Anners can really be proud of," says Bogin, who's taking the weekly Thursday afternoon market into its fifth summer season, and credits last summer's relocation from downtown's I-4, C-2 lot, to its new Stage Fort Park home with giving the market "a fresh start."
With lots more room for lots more produce, products, programs and activities, this year's market will open at Stage Fort at 3 p.m. Thursday with up to 65 vendors, Bogin says, making it "a bigger, better version" of last year's successful weekly run that offered 45 vendors and attracted a bumper crop of shoppers.
With its spectacular ocean views, plentiful free parking and perfect picnicking landscape, the new seaside location also attracted a bumper crop of "terrific new vendors" this year, Bogin says.
Some vendors from "off-the-cape" locales such as Salem, Newburyport and Watertown will be introducing new culinary crowd-pleasers, Bogin says, such roasted nuts and nut butter, artisal goat cheese, gluten-free baked goods, local organic meat — and last but not least — "home-made pickles from a local pickle man" which, Bogin declares, are "absolutely fantastic."
Tried and true favorites will also be back, Bogin adds — gelato, fresh pasta, maple syrup, desert sauces, salsa, jams, fresh seafood and cooking demonstrations, along with local wines and locally roasted coffees. And this year, she says, there will also be more prepared foods to take home for easy summer dining — or to nearby tables for sunset picnicking.
Stage Fort Park, Bogin says, has allowed the market to grow into more of a fun family venue. From 3 in the afternoon until it officially folds its tents at 6:30 p.m., it's alive with locally sourced music and entertainment, crafts and learning activities for kids and a playground for the toddlers.
Two new local farms will add more farm-fresh produce to the market's big, beautiful bounty of summer squash, corn, tomatoes, salad greens, berries, fruit and vegetables. Among the tents that will be pitched this Thursday will be one that's open to all "backyard growers."
Produce does not get any more local and fresh than this, notes Bogin, who is a longtime advocate of urban farming, and has been a prime mover behind the more than 50 edible backyard, front-yard, schoolyard, field and raised beds that have cropped up across Gloucester in recent years.
For backyard growers, who contribute 10 percent of their sales proceeds to the market, the tent provides an opportunity to make good money; the same is true for local craftspeople and artists, who've always been a big part of Cape Ann Farmers Market,
This year, local artist Camilla MacFayden is hand-printing a new image on tote bags to add to the market's branded retail line. The line, which features the market's logo, includes hats, aprons and T-shirts, has been a big seller and a great source of market revenue, Bogin says.
Another great revenue source says Bogin, is the book tent, which was the brainchild of Advisory Committee member Jan Klein, and sells an ever-changing inventory of "terrific vintage and new collector's cookbooks."
One high priority of the Advisory Committee has always been to offer equal opportunity access to all Cape Ann residents, says Bogin, and the market — which offers senior discounts and accepts EBT (Electric Benefit Transfer) cards, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) vouchers — received a grant this year to help support its participation in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Free CATA bus transportation is available for everyone from Rose Baker Senior Center, and this year, the market's 17-week run will again extend beyond the season, reopening for the second time in November for an indoor harvest festival, and for the first time in December, for holiday shoppers.
For more information, visit capeannfarmersmarket.org.
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3457, or firstname.lastname@example.org.