A gem in the center of town: Greenfield Farmers Market celebrates 50 years

The Greenfield Farmers Market, located next to and on the Town Common recently kicked off its 50th season.

The Greenfield Farmers Market, located next to and on the Town Common recently kicked off its 50th season. Photo by Hannah Logan

Visitors of the Greenfield Farmers Market enjoy the convenience of in-town access to fresh, local products and proximity to historic buildings and other echoes of regional history.

Visitors of the Greenfield Farmers Market enjoy the convenience of in-town access to fresh, local products and proximity to historic buildings and other echoes of regional history. Photo by Hannah Logan


For the Recorder

Published: 05-20-2024 12:41 PM

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about the Greenfield Farmers Market, which is in its 50th year.

On Saturday mornings — spring, summer and fall — the Greenfield Farmers Market in the town’s center bustles with open-air vendors, customers, dogs, live music, and a parade of children running around. Folks come from around the Valley to join the fun, and out-of-state visitors make the Market a destination, too. Customers can find local fresh vegetables, fruits, honey, seedlings, eggs, bedding and house plants, grass-fed meats, earthy fungi, popcorn, fresh bread, maple products, jam, and flower bouquets. Similar items are available at many of the nearly 10,000 farmers markets nationwide, but the Greenfield outfit offers so much more.

Folks wanting a nibble can find breakfast sandwiches, cookies, soup, and macarons. The Market also serves up a feast of visual art, textiles, yarns from local sheep, candles, cutting boards and jewelry. For those seeking natural healing, one can find herbal remedies, plus fire cider made right up the street. On some Saturdays, market attendees can get knives sharpened or socks darned.

Yet it’s not all about buying and selling; the Greenfield Farmers Market hosts area organizations like the Greenfield Public Library, Artspace music programs, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Franklin County Community Meals, the Guiding Star Grange, the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter, the Compost Cooperative, and many others.

In the 50th season of this vibrant gem, let’s meet some of the folks who’ve kept the Greenfield Farmers Market going all these years, as well as newcomers who bring fresh energy to the party. Some of the founders are no longer with us on the physical plane, but their spirits live on through the extraordinary entity they established.

Erik Lively of Colrain’s Sunrise Farms Maple has a booth with his mom, Marilyn, offering maple products and grass-fed beef. The Livelys have been part of the Market for four decades, and continue to farm on land purchased in 1890 by Erik’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph Lively, Jr. Erik and his younger brother, Jordan, are in the fifth generation of farmers. “It started with Joseph, Jr. and his son, Edmund. Next came my grandfather, Roderick, and then my dad, Rockwell.” And those are only the dads and granddads; many other family members were involved, as well.

Erik Lively has been part of the Farmers Market for half of his 40 years. “Our customers can know where our products come from. I feel joy and pride, knowing I can tell them anything they might want to know about our farm, our syrup, and everything we sell.” Lively considers the Market “one of greatest assets in the community.” The Livelys strive to be assets, as well: “Our sugar house is net zero,” he said. “We have solar arrays, and a zero carbon footprint.”

Market Manager Hannah Logan, 27, has a central role in an organization that’s nearly twice as old as she is, but she’s undaunted and remarkably creative. Logan receives positive feedback from vendors and community members alike, and feels like she’s on the right track. “I don’t have my own agenda. I just work on establishing relationships with everyone and taking ideas and comments seriously. I’ve come to see that the way to keep the Market lively, fun and sustainable is to attract vendors and customers who are excited to be there. Being fairly new puts me at both a disadvantage and an advantage. Stepping into something with so much history feels humbling.” Yet Logan isn’t afraid to be bold.

“We recently changed the Market hours. I was told that it had been 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. forever, and that it wouldn’t change. Yet vendors recently voted to shift the whole thing one hour later, and it’s gone over very well.” The Market has a brand-new logo and a new sign, both of which Logan feels “bring new life to the Market. Yet we also honor the long history,” she said. “In fact, the 50th year makes me want to keep track of archives, history, and those who went before.”

Logan did not spend her early life growing or eating fresh food. “Not at all!” she said. “I grew up in a Boston suburb eating chicken McNuggets and mac and cheese out of a box.” Yet she loved helping both of her grandmothers care for their flower gardens, and enjoyed school field trips to a local farm to pick blueberries. “I didn’t even like blueberries,” she said, “but I loved picking them, and seeing the farm animals.” Later, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Logan’s circle of friends included people interested in healthy foods. “UMass has a great dining program with local produce, interesting flavors, and quality ingredients. I was introduced to new foods through my meal plan and through friends who ate a lot of vegetables. I’d never even heard of pesto before!”

Returning home after her first year of college, Logan got a summer job at the farm she visited as a kid. “That was my hands-on intro to farm-fresh veggies, and the abundance, deliciousness, beauty, and pain of farming.” Logan recalled a challenging day: “It was pouring, so I figured (the farm workers) would get sent home. Well, they sent everyone home except for me and one other person. I learned that farmers wear rubber overalls and just keep working (in the rain).” The two soggy workers were sent with fresh produce to a farmer’s market. “I was soaking all day and thought, Really? I have to do this? It was humbling. I learned that farming is no joke. It’s intense, and it’s important.”

Returning to school that fall, Logan changed her major from public health to sustainable food and farming. “I started cooking more, sought out information, and discovered a whole new world. I asked myself, ‘Whoa! What have I been eating my entire life?’ Why hadn’t I known that carrots in a standard grocery store have probably been in storage for quite a while?” Logan joined the UMass Permaculture Initiative, helping to manage gardens outside of dining halls, and participated in research through a student farm program.

As the current Market manager, Logan works other jobs to make ends meet — creating pottery and walking dogs — and devotes herself to advocating for local farmers and making excellent products available to people across a broad spectrum of economic realities. She does a lot of the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), but also receives assistance from members of the Farmers Market Steering Committee.

Second-year committee member Meryl LaTronica is in her eighth season as director of farm operations at Just Roots Community Farm in north Greenfield. LaTronica grew up in eastern Mass, and at age 44 has worked on farms for half of her life. “Having a farmers market in town improves the quality of our lives, making it a desirable place to live.” In her role, LaTronica communicates with many people. “It’s a question people ask: ‘Does your town have a farmers market?’ It’s essential.”

When she began at Just Roots, “going to the farmers market sounded like a lot of work,” said LaTronica. “I was used to just farming and doing the CSA (community supported agriculture). Yet the farmers market has ended up being such a joy.” LaTronica recalls when she was 20 years old, “before I started farming, I worked at a coffee shop in Cambridge. After work one day, I stumbled upon the Central Square Farmers Market and was astounded by the bounty.” Now LaTronica helps produce such bounty, yet is still in awe of how much she enjoys sharing it with others.

Another steering committee member, Nicholas D’Alessandro, said, “During my decade as a vendor, Greenfield has always been my favorite (farmers market) because our vendors are smaller scale and especially passionate. Our customers help create an environment where everybody knows your name.” As the owner and operator of Hearthstone Artisan Bakery, D’Alessandro, 41, brings fresh breads and supremely popular chocolate-chip cookies to market. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to leave my corporate job and to be a part of the Market,” he said. “This season in particular excites me, because there’s a feeling of momentum. We’re growing and deepening; we’re streamlining our operations and polishing our image. I always look forward to Saturdays.”

Barbara and Eric Goodchild, owners of Barberic Farm in Shelburne, have raised Romney sheep since 1996 and got involved with the Greenfield Farmers Market through the winter market that takes place indoors throughout colder months. (We’ll delve into the winter market phenomenon in next week’s column.) “We got involved with the winter market when it began in 2006,” said Barbara Goodchild. “A few years ago, we got into the summer market as occasional vendors, and now we’re half time.” The Goodchilds are grateful for a market in a more urban area. “We were doing just hilltown markets, but needed another income source. The Greenfield market has been very helpful.” In addition to meat and wool, Barberic offerings sound like a gastronomical and cultural treasure chest: pickles, jams, honey, homegrown popcorn, ready-to-bake pies, socks, mittens, iron work, leather goods, bagpiping for events, and bagpiping and piano lessons.

Regular vendor Karl Prahl of Underline Farm in Easthampton, who brings organic meat and eggs, appreciates activities that take place nearby, as well. “It’s a beautiful community. We get to see customers, plus people demonstrating concern about issues by standing out on the Town Common, which is the site of sometimes opposing viewpoints about economic or societal issues. It’s great to have diversity.”

Debra and Greg Cootware, who bring honey and original artwork to the Market, love interacting with community members. “We get to see young and old, big and small, dogs and … goats?” said Greg Cootware, as a goat was ushered out of the middle of traffic back to the safety of the Common. Debra Cootware added, “When we’re here, I’m reminded that I live in a small town, and that this is the place to be.”

Eveline MacDougall is the author of “Fiery Hope,” and a musician, artist and mom. Readers may contact her at eveline@amandlachorus.org or P.O. Box 223, Greenfield, MA 01302.