By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Cape Ann Farmers Market will usher in the start of summer just a day before the solstice when it opens Thursday for its seventh year.
The market, which will host even more vendors this year than last, will occupy Stage Fort Park every Thursday through Oct. 10 between 3 and 6:30 p.m., with farmers, cheese makers, other local food producers and a few crafters manning tents and carts, according to organizer Nicole Bogin.
“It’s definitely bigger, our biggest market yet,” Bogin said. “Our focus is on food, nutrition, fitness, education and conservation, but we also do have some crafters.”
The market began with seven vendors seven years ago, grew to 15 when based at Harbor Loop, and then three years ago, a big move to Stage Fort Park expanded the entire market.
This year will see up to 59 vendors at the park on Thursdays, with some of the vendors only setting up every other week or once a month, and others coming each Thursday. Fifteen of those vendors are new this year.
Vendors at the market are all based within a 100-mile radius of Gloucester.
The market’s offerings include smoked and cured fish, a local seafood stand, Lebanese breads, cheeses, wines, micro greens, and dehydrated vegetables, to name some of the newcomers. These vendors will sell alongside with the farmers, the kids tent and the local musicians that customers have grown to expect.
“Now that we’re at Stage Fort Park and we’re really nice and established, we’re really starting to see the audience broadening,” Bogin said.
With the sprouting of more vendors and the location change, said Bogin, the farmers market began seeing more tourists plan a visit to the market into their Cape Ann vacations, but also observed Cape Ann residents becoming regulars.
“We’ve grown in terms of our customer base in Gloucester and it’s not just the diehard foodies anymore, but people who are interested in having broader access to local foods and more choices,” Bogin said.
The Cape Ann Farmers Market accepts EBT, SNAP, WIC and senior farmers market coupons.
While the majority of vendors sell from home or work from their farms and “very few” have actual storefronts, Bogin said, some do set up shops at other markets across the state and New England.
With farmers markets sprouting up in Rockport and Essex this weekend, Bogin said she is pleased to see the popularity and increased availability of locally grown foods.
“We’re all here to support each other. The more farmers markets the better, the more access to local foods the better,” Bogin said.
And that sense of camaraderie exists within the Cape Ann Farmers Market, too. Though the market hosts at least three farmers as vendors, Alprilla Farm vendor Noah Kellerman said everyone helps each other out.
“We’re a pretty friendly bunch. Even though we are sometimes in competition with one another, it’s a pretty cooperative atmosphere,” Kellerman said.
If Kellerman sells all of his radishes, for example, he will send customers over to another of the farmers’ stands for those.
Kellerman likes to pop over to the A&J Bakers stand, as the bakers out of Salem sell tasty sticky buns and fresh bread.
And, there is more than one stand to visit to buy spread for a bread, but Jack Arlon Foods joins the circuit of vendors this year with various flavors of jam and jelly. Kate Esty, the chef turned jam maker, sells her jams and jellies — including tomato chutney, habanero marmalade and blueberry relish — out of some of Cape Ann’s stores, and will work a stand at the market every other Thursday.
Kellerman’s Alprilla Farm first set up its stand at Cape Ann Farmers Market in 2009, then took a year off, but has been back every year since the 2011 season.
“It’s fun to just see so many people excited about good food,” Kellerman said. “We see lots of neighbors and friends, and make new friends.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.