The Westport Farmers’ Market opened today with a celebratory vibe as late spring temps finally pushed into the low 80’s and bright sun pushed through the early morning fog. More than 30 vendors set up under their tents, arranging heaping towers of local produce and lovingly prepared food product as shoppers streamed in to resume their Thursday routines of shopping, eating, and shmoozing at this one stop al fresco mecca. Westport’s market, winner of BEST FARMERS’ MARKET for the third consecutive year in the annual BEST OF THE GOLD COAST AWARDS, has embarked on its sixth season with stricter guidelines imposed on market vendors. Lori Cochran Dougall, Market Manager, has developed 12 guidelines that must be met by both farmers and small food producers. These guidelines are accepted by all vendors and make the mission of this market clear: all edibles must be local, sustainable and healthy. What does this mean for shoppers?
Shoppers never have to question the source of their food. Produce must be pesticide free and harvested locally. Prepared food must be sans high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Pre-packaged ingredients may not be used (like pie crusts) and everything must be made from scratch using mostly local farm products. Cochran Dougall has included a dozen new vendors, all of whom have jumped at the opportunity to be a part of her ambitious and wellness centric mission. She has personally vetted all farmers and producers so that shoppers at this market are guaranteed the highest quality experience. In addition, vendors were asked to lower their use of plastics by at least 25%, with the goal of being 90% plastic free by 2013.
Here’s the scoop on the newcomers: PEACE TREE DESSERTS (above), owned and operated by CIA grad and pastry chef Robyn Eads, tempted with her newly launched Cajeta Caramel Sauces. Imaginative flavors like cinnamon, Applejack, lemon, curry and rosemary are made with local goat’s milk in a new twist on a Mexican pantry staple. Eads will also offer freshly baked organic treats each week. HUCKLEBERRY BAKERY of Bridgeport joined a number of new bakers at market, with Christina Cote’s small batches of cheesecake, strawberry shortbread and gluten free, super moist, chocolate brownies. R and D CHOCOLATES of Southport offered irresistible, elegant bites of dark chocolate ganache and chocolate caramel dusted with sea salt.
Among the newcomers in prepared foods, RADICAL ROOTS, of Roxbury, re-introduces Cassandra Purdy at the helm of her independent venture, preparing tasty and hearty salads, soups and veggie dips. Loyal followers will recognize her as the talented, enthusiastic redhead previously cheffing for family owned and operated, organic Riverbank Farm, where she continues to source her ingredients from. KAIA YOGA was offering juices and smoothies in addition to vegetarian fare from their cafe located in their popular yoga complex in Westport. LITTLE SOMETHING CATERING, Southington, offered up quiches, empanadas and sweet and savory pot pies. Throngs of market enthusiasts were munching while strolling and surveying the scene. Others took advantage of shaded picnic tables and took time out to eat while enjoying the scene.
Among the new farmers are Pete Teveris from WOODLAND FARM in South Glastonbury, offering raspberries, blueberries, plums,pears, apples and peaches. SPECKLED ROOSTER FARM, Westport, is harvesting their first season of crops just two miles down the road. TRINITY DAIRY FARM, a 25 acre pasture in Enfield on the CT/MA border, is owned and operated by Mike and Dale Ann Smyth. Try their single dairy milk, heavy cream and half and half . You will notice the luxurious texture and distinctive flavor of this farm to table product which could easily become your new breakfast staple.
Remember to check out the rotation of LOCAL CHEFS presenting and offering samples each week.Their focus is on sourcing ingredients from the market and incorporating these items into 1-2 dishes presented to hungry shoppers. Want to know more? Chefs love to get out of their kitchens and talk about what they cook. First up, is personable, award winning chef /owner Bill Taibe of LE FARM in Westport (Bill Taibe and Tim LaBant of The Schoolhouse above). WATCH THIS SITE for more info about the exciting line up of chefs and what they will be offering at market.
Look for Lori Cochran Dougall, Market Manager, when you visit. Her faint, Southern twang may tip you off. FRIENDS OF THE MARKET may contribute $40 for one year's worth of discounts offered by vendors each week. They will also receive her weekly newsletter, chock full of buzz about what’s being harvested and what’s new. Shoppers are reminded to support the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, a shelter, residence and kitchen that benefits from farmers who donate their fresh produce in order to feed the hungry in our community. Shoppers may support this ongoing effort by buying an extra bunch or two while shopping or by bringing items from their home pantries.
Cochran Dougall’s broadening initiative continues to emphasize local community by inviting one local artist and one non-profit organization each week. Look for their artistic displays and informative booths.
WESTPORT FARMERS’ MARKET is located in the Imperial Ave. Commuter Parking Lot in Westport, adjacent to the Women’s Club. The market is open every Thursday, rain or shine, from now until November 3. Visit the WFM at www.westportfarmersmarket.com.