It was as if the Connecticut weather knew it was a monumental day in the local food community, as ominous early morning clouds faded into beaming sunlight. Just like that, it became a beautiful day for hundreds of people to unite through their love for one thing: good food. It was opening day at The Westport Farmers’ Market!
Since 2006, the Westport Farmers’ Market has been a destination for locals to browse a diverse selection of produce from farms, bakeries, breweries, and more. Opening day brought vendors from all corners of Connecticut, including several first timers excited to get their names out to locals.
Nod Hill Brewery, based in Ridgefield, made their debut at the farmers’ market by displaying their variety of American, German and Belgian style beers. The brewery seeks to evoke a classic, rustic vibe by replacing TV screens with record players, while simultaneously practicing sustainability by becoming 100 percent solar powered as of last month. David Kaye, one of the employees representing the brewery, detailed the excitement surrounding their first couple of hours in business at the market.
“We’re really excited to be here, to be a part of this community of so many other great producers,” Kaye said. “We’re excited to meet all the people in the Westport community and the greater community that comes here and introduce ourselves. We feel that we have an interesting, unique product that we’re excited to get out there.”
The Brewery wasn’t the only newcomer to the market on opening day. Laura and Pat of The Hickories Farm in Ridgefield represented their certified organic fruits and vegetables. Comprised of 100 acres and cultivating on 30, this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm is open for business seven days a week. They grow an astounding variety of 180 fruits and vegetables along with 75 varieties of flowers. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the farm has the only certified organic peach orchard in the entire state of Connecticut.
“I’m trying to be representative of everything that we’re doing,” Laura said, “so every three weeks, we’re going to bring some fruits and vegetables, some of our preserves, and some of our wool, just to get people to know that we’re around.”
From the small town of Norfolk, Lost Ruby Farm made the hike down to Westport to offer samples of their fresh and aged cheeses for customers to taste. Their fresh cheeses included a diverse selection of plain, herb, garlic, smokey, smokin’ hot maple, and even dessert chevre.
“Everything we make is all goat and only goat,” a Lost Ruby Farm employee said. “It’s all pasteurized and it’s mostly organic. Our fresh cheeses are made one day and ready to eat the next day.”
Though she had been an avid market customer for years, and described her visits as her “weekly zen,” Jenna McPartland had never been a vendor at the farmers’ market. She finally had the opportunity on opening day to do so, and was thrilled to showcase the message and products that her company, The Stand, has to offer.
“Our slogan is ‘what do you stand for?’ and we stand for healthy food, compassion, and great taste,” McPartland said. “We stand for whatever is good for our body, the planet, and the animals.”
McPartland also recognized the important similarities in purpose that both her business and the farmers’ market itself had in common.
“What we do at The Stand and the kind of food that we celebrate really speaks to the efforts that the Market is trying to make, too,” she said. “I think our visions are aligned. Plus, it’s just really tasty food and I want to get it out there.”
Among the newbies at the Market were some veteran vendors as well. Frequent market customers likely spotted a familiar face in Patti Popp, a co-founder of Sport Hill Farm in Easton. When she and her husband opened up the farm in 2000, they sold vegetables only. Today, they’ve stayed true to their roots by primarily selling vegetables, but have expanded to selling pork from pigs they raise on the farm. With her experience as a Westport Farmers’ Market vendor, Popp has recognized just how special the community is to her.
“Farmers markets are all very unique and different,” Popp said. “I think the Westport market is incredibly community based. We all have one another’s backs, we all hope one another out, we do a lot of community networking and reaching out for people.”
Popp also praised the market for being a destination for those of all ages who show up to support the movement of eating local.
“It’s restaurants and the people who support local and want local; it just works,” she said. “You can feel the vibe when you step in here. You can sit outside and eat lunch, you have wonderful live music, and education for the kids. It’s an experience, it’s not just an event.”
The farmers’ market even offered some savory satisfaction for your sweet tooth. Kelly is the “K” in her small business “K is for Cookies,” which she first began in 2013. At her station within the market, she displayed an array of her signature shortbread cookies, which she says are made of as many organic ingredients as possible. She detailed that she doesn’t make her cookies super sweet, and instead, tends to incorporate a savory or salty element. As someone who worked in the restaurant business in Westport, Kelly is familiar with how welcoming the people are.
“I’ve worked in Westport for years, I’ve worked in several restaurants in Westport, and it’s just a really great community,” she said. “It’s super supportive of small food brands and small businesses.”
To contrast with a saltier snack, customers could take a quick walk down to Jane’s Good Food, a pickle business run by none other than Jane herself. Jane Costello opened up her business seven years ago, and single-handedly operates the business. Though she offers just dill and sweet dill pickles all year round, she pickles brussel sprouts, cauliflower, baby beets, horseradish and more. Some of her recipes are a hundred years old, including a peach recipe that dates back to colonial times. Her business has offered her more than pickles, however, as she explained while describing what draws her to market each year.
“These are all people, these are my friends,” Costello said. “My customers tell me what they do; I know their stories, I know their weddings, I know their babies. You grow with them. It’s like family.”
The Westport Farmers’ Market is open May 23 - November 7 Thursdays 10:00AM – 2:00PM
50 Imperial Ave Westport, Connecticut 06880