Norwich Farmers Market: It’s a Big Dill
We speak with vendors and visitors of the Norwich Farmers Market.
In New England, the autumn leaves are most certainly “falling down like pieces into place,” as Taylor Swift sings in “All Too Well.” The Norwich Farmers Market in Vermont is a fabulous fall excursion: This outdoor market has several vendors selling products ranging from fresh produce to skincare items to coffee. The environment is incredibly welcoming and visitors leave with delicious goodies and special memories.
According to their website, the market was established in 1977 as a space for farmers and craftspeople to sell their products to the Upper Valley community. It currently operates through Norwich Farmers Inc. — a nonprofit dedicated to providing market spaces for local vendors. From May to October, the outdoor market is open to the public every Saturday at the Farmers Market Grounds. When the weather chills, the market is held indoors at Tracy Hall twice a month from November until April, with the exception of the special Thanksgiving market held outdoors on November 20th.
According to Valley News, during the pandemic, the outdoor farmers market was reduced, but nevertheless, it persisted. At the beginning of the 2020 outdoor market season, fewer vendors participated, and the market saw fewer customers turn out due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, business remained strong as people continued to value fresh produce sourced locally. Although she did not participate in it herself, Angry Goat Pottery owner Dawn Dahlstrom explained that the market was made as safe as possible — with measures such as masking, hand sanitizer stations and vendor setups that complied with social distancing protocols.
Some vendors chose to change their offerings to be more conducive to COVID-19 safety measures.
“Our product is a beverage enjoyed there at the market, and folks weren’t really able to eat or drink at the market, so we focused on implementing pickup models at our location in Woodstock to make it safer for our customers,” Abracadabra Coffee business partner Sarah Yetter explained.
Abracadabra Coffee has been a vendor for the past four years. The name, Yetter said, is based on an ancient protection spell. Her partner, Clint Hunt, was the one to bring the idea to life after roasting coffee at home and growing the business by engaging with customers at farmers markets. The company is currently a permanent vendor, and this season has been the strongest one they’ve had — but they have goals for the future.
“In the coming years, we hope to have a space on the outside ring so that we could have generators powering a mobile espresso setup,” Yetter said.
Last fall, Alex Salyer ’24 went to the farmers market for the first time with several fellow students. Though people were still masked up outside and there was no live music or places to sit and eat, she recalled the delicious maple candies and addictive shortbread that she devoured shortly after purchasing it from the “sweetest old lady.” Now having gone twice this fall, Salyer appreciates the sense of normalcy that has returned to the market — with people eating as they walk around, live entertainment and the smiles that used to be hidden behind a mask.
“There are so many lovely things to eat or look at, and there is great live music,” Sayler said. “Combined with the ambience of peak foliage and being there with people you like, it is a great experience.”
Both a customer and current vendor, Dahlstrom expressed her love for the market and reminisced on going to the Norwich Farmers Market as a child. Due to the pandemic, her first time selling Angry Goat Pottery pieces at the outdoor market was this September.
“I grew up around here, so it seems like I’ve been going forever,” Dalhstrom said.
Dahlstrom’s love for pottery began in high school: She did an independent study in ceramics her senior year, making a beautiful set of tableware. When her husband gifted her a functional pottery class for Christmas, she started taking classes through the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and, years later, is now a volunteer for the clay studio. Dahlstrom’s private company, Angry Goat Pottery, came to life in December 2016 on the Etsy website.
“[A piece] starts out as a twenty-five pound block of clay that gets cut into pieces and processed by hand, as I work with artisanal methods of making pottery,” Dahlstrom explained. “My process is both heavily dependent on weather due to the moisture content of the clay… as well as the kilns, as my work has to be fired twice.”
Dahlstrom described pottery as a “slow art form” — explaining that custom orders can take up to eight weeks due to the tedious nature of her craft.
Marya Merriam, another current vendor, developed the dried flower company, Wood Frog Flowers, as a side-project during the pandemic. This is their second year in business and their first year at the Norwich Farmers Market.
“I think that there is a lot of interest in my product because of the pandemic,” Merriam said. “I’ve heard people say to me that if there is another lockdown, I want something nice for my living room.”
According to Merriam, a flower can take one to three weeks to dry. Merriam said they start planning which plants they will grow in December and January, and they begin seeding in mid-March. They take care of the flowers until the spring through the beginning of the summer. Merriam then begins the harvest process, including drying the flowers and finally arranging them. They continue to work on these arrangements long past the growing season for the holidays.
“My ultimate goal is to have a full time farm of my own to grow flowers and vegetables,” Merriam said. “I love doing the flowers and seeing them bring people joy, but I also love the idea of feeding people — so I’d love to do both one day.”
All vendors expressed their love for the Norwich Farmers Market, noting the welcoming community and the ability to connect with customers on a personal level.
“I want to sell at farmers markets because I love that you can have a conversation with every customer and you can truly represent your product accurately,” Merriam shared. “I also love the camaraderie between vendors.”
And after being quarantined for months and having to move business online, vendors are excited to be back together again. According to Yetter, the community has been extra-supportive in attending the market and connecting with the vendors.
While all of the excitement may take its toll, ultimately, everyone is just happy to be back together again in person.
“It’s exhausting after being home and isolated for so long and doing everything online, but having that kind of stimulus overload is amazing,” Dahlstrom said. “When you’re selling in person though, you’re getting feedback all day long as you see people handle your pieces and express their thoughts.”