Local vendors hawk veggies, crafts

by Cathy Wu | 1/8/07 6:00am

Skeins of colorful hand-spun yarn hang in the interior of Norwich's town hall Saturday while vendors exhibit their goods at the Norwich Farmers Market.
by Phil Bracikowski / The Dartmouth

There, she and her husband Verne sell their homemade creations as part of their Gizmo's Pickled Plus business. Although it was the couple's first time vending at this market -- one of the oldest in Vermont -- business has been good.

Jennifer Kitchel Reining '87, who browsed the market with her two children, listed the importance of supporting local producers as part of the reason she shops there.

The market was started in the 1970s as an initiative to bring local produce to the surrounding New England population. As a rule, everything sold in the market is either homemade or homegrown.

Although very popular in the summertime, this year marks the first ever winter market held in Tracy Hall, in the heart of Norwich.

Aside from prepared foods, the market vends crafts and agricultural produce, though Saturday's market didn't offer much in the way of produce, vexing one regular.

"I'd like it if it had more vegetables," Peter Tannini, who works for Dartmouth's admissions office, said.

Partly to blame was the winter weather and the recent decision to hold a winter market.

"Right now we can't grow things, so we have root vegetables and more meats, eggs and diary," Jennifer Megyesi, an agricultural vendor said. She explained that since the winter market was finalized in March, many farmer's were not able to plan their production accordingly.

According to Suzanne Long, the acting president of the market's board of directors, most space in the market is reserved for agricultural vendors, followed by prepared foods and crafts vendors. The limited amount of space for the winter market has led to a long waiting list of vendors vying for spots.

While farmers markets are not uncommon in Vermont and New Hampshire, the Norwich Farmers Market is one of the most established. Wealthy buyers are one reason behind the market's competitive selling space.

"It's affluent, down to earth and aware kind of people," Deborah Falls, a vendor of the summer market, said of the consumer group. "They can afford the hand-crafted cheese and the organic vegetables. They really care about the style and quality of life."

According to Long, one of the market's goals is to obtain local regulars who shop there for most of their daily food needs. Locals, however, are not the only group that are keeping the market a popular weekend destination. Tourists and sometimes even Dartmouth students also form the consumer base that traverse up and down the aisles.

Despite the diverse customer base, business -- according to some vendors -- has been tapering off in the past year.

"It's the economy," Kathy Barrett, one such seller, said, adding that others blame this summer's high gas prices.

Despite the pinch in sales, the winter market was well-received by both vendors and their customers, all of whom seemed to enjoy the live musical entertainment -- middle-aged women playing Beatles classics on steel drums.

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