BRISTOL – Need some fresh vegetables, all-natural maple syrup, homemade soap or organic oat bars? Look no further than the Bristol Farmers Market, which filled downtown with vendors Saturday.
It was the second market of the year. Shoppers bounced from stand to stand, looking at leafy greens and plump tomatoes piled high, freshly baked bread, scones and pasties, and jars of jam, honey, salsa and pickles all lined up in a row.
“The Farmers Market every year since I’ve been in involved in city council gets better,” said City Councilor Greg Hahn.
“We came just out of curiosity,” said Pat Dupuis who came with her husband, Ray. “Everything looked really fresh and the prices are good.”
“It’s the best thing Bristol has ever done,” said Debbie Lombardi.
“We had some of the best coffee over there,” she added.
Over there was coffee-makers Real Café, owned by Eduardo Graces.
Graces offered free samples and explained the coffee making process to curious shoppers. He comes from a family that has been growing coffee in Columbia for two generations. One day, he decided he wanted to sell coffee and plans to open a coffee shop on School Street within the next three months.
“It should be a good venture. It’s just the beginning,” he said.
His coffee shop will use beans grown in Columbia.
“It’s a good partnership between Columbia and the U.S.,” Graces added.
He said that he got his start selling coffee right there at the market.
“It was crazy. We sold 1.2 tons last year,” Graces said.
Other vendors also shared their excitement to be selling their products at the market.
“It’s going pretty good,” said Jordon Tonn, who owns Tonn’s Orchard in Burlington with his wife, Aubri. “Last week was pretty busy- sold out of everything.”
He said tomatoes were his best sellers.
“We are kind of known for our tomatoes,” Tonn added.
Joanne Quish and her husband Ed, owners of Perkins Pure Sugar House, sold homemade maple syrup and other maple products at the next table.
“We did really well last week and are really happy to come back this week,” she said, adding that her favorite part is “interacting with people, meeting old friends. We’re both Bristol born and raised.”
While people milled around the market, they were treated to live music. Melanie Michaud, who grew up in Bristol and is now attending CCSU for art education, sang and played guitar.
“I’ve never felt so comfortable playing somewhere,” she said.
Another major draw of the market was the Trash to Treasure program. Desks, chairs, bureaus, mirrors and toys lined the parking lot, all brought by residents to the transfer station but deemed too good to throw out.
“It all goes for free. Whatever people want, they take,” said Rob Smith, who works for Public Works. “It would be too much of a shame to throw it all out and get rid of it.”
“It’s been popular. We emptied one full can last weekend,” Smith said, adding that “can” referred to the large dumpster behind him.
Bristol firefighters as well came out to support the Farmers Market. Firefighter Alan Rudolewicz said that kids love to see the big, red fire truck. And, as an added bonus, the firefighters raised money for muscular dystrophy with their ‘fill the boot’ campaign.
“Just a little extra to help the kids with muscular dystrophy,” Rudolewicz said.
The market will go for 20 weeks until Oct. 22, said Dawn M. Nielsen, the Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for the Bristol Development Authority. The market will also return for one Saturday in November for people to stock up on items for Thanksgiving.
Each week will have between eight and 12 vendors and a different band or singer, Nielsen said. The Arts and Cultural Commission, chaired by Lindsay Vigue, organized music along with Councilor Hahn, who is the liaison for the commission.
Hahn, who is a musician himself, said he sometimes lends sound equipment to the musicians so they can play at the market. And, he is a big fan of shopping at the market too.
“The prices are extremely reasonable,” he said. “As a matter of fact, my wife told me to pick up some eggs.”
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.