SACO - The Saco Farmers’ Market is opening for the season on Saturday, May 10, and six new vendors are expected to set up shop.
Rain or shine, the market will be located in the Saco Valley Shopping Center beside Greater Portland Pediatric Associates off Spring Street.
Rachel Harris, who owns Harris Farm in Dayton with her husband Clint, has attended and overseen the farmers market for more than 25 years. She said last week that six new vendors confirmed their attendance at the market, which will be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-noon, through October.
On opening day, market-goers can choose from seasonal vegetables, potted plants, vegetable seedlings, local bottled milk, locally raised and free-range beef, pork, chicken and eggs, honey, maple syrup, mushrooms, lobsters and steamers, herbal skin care products, baked goods and Maine-made crafts.
New vendors include Cap N’ Stem Mushroom Co. from Portland; My 3 Sisters Italian Cookies from Portland; Redsky Farm from North Waterboro; Christmas Farm Alpacas from Buxton; Sweet Thyme Farm in Arundel; and Bowery Beach Farm in Cape Elizabeth.
With a growing number of vendors, Harris said, this year’s farmers market will offer a larger variety of products, including fresh-cut flowers, locally cultivated gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, soap and handbags, mixed organic vegetables and more.
She estimates that around 20 vendors in all will participate in the market between May and October, the largest turnout to date. But, for the first time in 38 years, Snell Family Farm in Buxton will not be attending the market, though the farm will still be open seven days a week and continue to sell at the Portland farmers market, Harris said.
“It was a difficult decision emotionally, since we have been selling in Saco for 38 years and we enjoy warm relationships with our customers there,” according to an announcement on the Snell Family Farm website. “We recognize that we need to cut back a little on the truck loading, unloading, reloading, and unloading that going to farmers’ markets entails. We will re-emphasize our produce available at home, hoping our Saco customers will join our neighbors here at the farm for all of our usual products.”
The Saco Farmers’ Market, which opened in 1975, is one of the oldest in Maine.
“I have had lots of calls from many different types of farms,” Harris said. “It’s the most people that have ever called me in any season to join (the farmers market) and I am really excited to have a good variety.”
According to Harris, 14 vendors are expected to open at the market in May. At the height of the season, in July, the market will grow to about 20 vendors, and will mainly be vegetable farmers.
In 2013, the former Saco River Winter Market, another local farmers market that once operated on Saco Island during the winter months only, extended its season to year-round on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Paul Lorrain, owner of Funky Bow Brewery and Sunset Farm Organics in Lyman, said the Saco River Market, now in its third year, has about 60 vendors – and it keeps growing.
“Our business model is not just for farmers,” Lorrain said, of the Saco River Market. “We have a nice group of farmers that come in – like all farmers markets have – but at the same time we rent space to artisans. We also sell prepared foods, like breads and cheeses, and we have a coffee vendor. We have a person who makes soap and we have another person who harvests seaweed out of the ocean and makes granola bars,” he said.
Like the Saco Farmers’ Market, the market on Saco Island is committed to providing quality, locally grown agricultural products and specialty foods.
“We want people to come here and do their shopping,” Lorrain said, adding that the market has a spice merchant, eggs and beef, and even eco-friendly cleaning products. “We’re much more than a farmers market.”
Though some markets, including the Saco River Market, offer an entertainment aspect, such as face painting and live music, the farmers market in the Saco Valley Shopping Center has remained more traditional. It aims to focus less on crafts and more on showcasing local foods, Harris said.
Harris is always impressed with the number of people who visit the market every year, she said. As far as advertising for the market, it’s mostly been word of mouth, she said.
“The people who come to our market are focused on buying local foods,” she said.
Eric Lomen, owner of Cap N’ Stem Mushroom Co., a small mushroom farm in Portland, said what drew him to the Saco Farmers’ Market is the fact that restaurants have been “popping up” in the Saco-Biddeford area recently. His goal is to provide businesses in Portland, and eventually in Saco and Biddeford, with freshly cultivated and locally foraged mushrooms year round.
Carolyn Snell, owner of Snell Family Farm, recommended the market to him, Lomen said.
“We produce mushrooms on sawdust; mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms,” for wholesale, he said.
Lomen said he plans to be at the Saco Farmers’ Market every Saturday, selling gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, recipes and kits for people who are interested in cultivating mushrooms at home.
Though he will not be present for opening day on May 10, the owner of Sweet Thyme Farm in Arundel, Garth Douston, will be setting up at the market for the very first time the following week. The 22-year-old is graduating from the University of Maine with a degree in sustainable agriculture.
“It’s really exciting that we are getting someone right out of college who wants to farm and is jumping right into it,” Harris said.
“We are really looking forward to bringing in a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs to the market for our first year in production,” said Douston, whose family owns Douston Maple and Honey in Arundel and has attended the market for the past few years. Later in the season, Douston said he will also be offering duck eggs.
“We are very excited for the opportunity and we will see how the season plays out,” said Douston.
A CLOSER LOOK
The Saco Farmers’ Market will be open every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m.-noon in the Saco Valley Shopping Center parking lot beginning Saturday, May 10. For a full list of vendors, see www.sacofarmersmarket.com.
The Saco River Market is open year-round every Saturday from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at 110 Main St. on Saco Island. For a full list of vendors, see www.sacorivermarket.com.