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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Ashland Farmers Market Is Fresh and Flourishing

Write your article here..By Patricia Roy

At 9 a.m. on June 10, the bell at the Ashland Farmers Market  bandstand will ring, signaling another season has opened for the sale of fresh fruit and produce, baked goods, delicious meal kits and a wide array of international foods. Florence Seidell could be called one of the founders of the weekly feast that takes place Saturdays beginning June 10, and running through October at 125 Front St. The market closes at 1 p.m. and it’s rain or shine except in the case of severe weather.

Seidell got involved 12 years ago, as a member of the Garden Club. She was one of the volunteers planting raised boxes on an unused tennis court when former select board member Steve Mitchell, called over the fence ,” Hey, when you gonna start a farmers’ market?”

It seemed like a good idea because “the town has no farms or farm stands, but surrounding towns do have access to locally grown fruits and vegetables,” Seidell said. 

They investigated farmers markets all over New England, bringing back a set of best practices like having all kitchens inspected by the town’s Board of Health.

They also wanted to spread the word about healthier food choices because even then, plant-based diets weren’t much discussed, she said. Even the idea of getting bakers to participate was taken on because there were no bakeries in town at the time and they wanted to get people back downtown.

“We wanted to bring locally grown and/or prepared foods to Ashland,” said Seidell. “We even have a new local vendor who roasts imported coffee beans.” So you can have a locally brewed cup with your locally baked muffin.

The Farmers Market has strong guidelines, with the intention of creating a business incubator, Seidell said.

“Some people have started with us 12 years ago and have gone on to be very successful entrepreneurs,” she said. 

She offered the example of Yummy Mummy Bakery, who has her own brick and mortar store in Westborough and also sells throughout the metro Boston area at various locations. 

“She started out very humbly at our farmers market,” Seidell said. “There have been several others and we’re very proud of them. We pride ourselves on having started a number of women who wanted to get into business and had to start small. We give them a leg up.”

The farmers market has also delivered a sales venue to the Indian community and in the past given a stage to dancers and musicians celebrating that culture. 

The market has at least 25 food vendors on any given Saturday, plus three artisans. Besides the coffee roaster, this year’s new food vendors include Off Our Rocker bakers with sweet potato cookies and other plant-based treats and Basil N Spice, from Worcester, with Pad Thai meal kits.

In addition to the tented food vendors, there are food trucks that change from week to week, the market has kids events like facepainting and crafts with recycled materials sponsored by the Moms Club. Certain Saturdays are reserved for special celebrations – like Dog Day, or Strawberry Day where vendors are invited to include strawberries in their creations.

“We’ve had strawberry muffins and strawberry raviolis,” Seidell said. 

There’s also Green Living Day with the Ashland Sustainability committee, and a real kids’ favorite – Farm Day with petting zoo and farm equipment. Health Day will likely see a dentist, acupuncturist ad physical therapist on hand, she said.

Seidell is proud of the variety of food goods available. Vegan and vegetarian, gluten –free, pickles, jams, Asian dumplings, hummus, Indian yogurt balls and Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches, African barbecue, paninis, kebabs and samosas.

SNAP cards are accepted and by speaking with the Market Manager and the SNAP assistant, participants may double their value, up to $50.

“It’s a big undertaking,” Seidell said.  There’s always a need for more volunteers, she added. 

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