40 Years of Steady Growth: Norwich Farmers Market Digs In at Route 5 Site

  • Louise Clifford, of West Canaan, N.H. arranges bouquets of daffodils at her stand at the Norwich Farmer's Market on May 5, 2017. Clifford of Woodlawn Farm has been coming to the market for 35 years. Her father was one of the original vendors at the market, when there was only five tables. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At the first of the season Norwich Farmer's Market, Wayne Ritter, of Rye, N.H. holds his granddaughter Ada Murphy, of Wilder, Vt. while listening to music at the market on May 5, 2017. On the other end of the bench Joe Holland, of Norwich, Vt., left, talks with Bill Shepard, of Thetford, Vt. Joe and his sons Anders, 2, and Jake, 4 were all eating bagels they gotten at the market. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At the Norwich Farmer's Market, Geo Honigford of Hurricane Flats Farm in South Royalton, Vt., left, Market Manager Steve Hoffman, and Jinny Hardy Cleland of Four Springs Farm in Royalton, Vt., talk on May 5, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Helen Daisey, center, of the Cottonstone Farm in Orford, N.H., makes a sale on July 25, 1977, at the Upper Valley Growers' Association farmers' market in Norwich, Vt. Each week of operation has seen the market attract more customers and farmers, moving toward a near perfect balance, organizers say. (Valley News - Rob Eley) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2017 12:04:57 AM
Modified: 5/10/2017 12:50:29 AM

The opening day of the Norwich Farmers Market on Saturday signaled the beginning of the market’s 40th anniversary season.

There aren’t any big celebrations planned, said Steve Hoffman, the market’s manager. But the market has another milestone that’s worth noting: its first formal lease on its longtime home on Route 5.

The market made a handshake deal with its landlord, the Co-op Food Stores, in 1977.

“We’d never had a lease and no one ever thought about it,” Hoffman said, noting that the Co-op Food Stores will maintain ownership of the community gardens and the farmers market site, which comprise more than 3½ acres.

Last year, the board of directors for the Norwich Farmers Market and Terry Appleby, the former director of the Co-op Food Stores, agreed it was time to negotiate a lease, Hoffman said.

“It gives us a little more stability,” Hoffman said. “It’s very good. The Co-op has treated us very well in the past.”

The Co-op Food Stores have maintained the relationship with the Norwich market for 40 years because “we don’t just encourage people to shop our stores; we encourage them to shop farmstands and farmers markets and to join CSAs and to have choices of access to our partners products,” wrote the Co-op’s general manager Ed Fox in an email.

The market typically boasts up to 53 vendors, out of a pool of about 100, every Saturday. There are 26 spring, summer and fall markets, Hoffman said.

Once the lease was signed, the annual fee for the site, which had been “dirt cheap,” Hoffman said, increased by six times what it had been.

“It just seemed like a more fair price than what they had been charging us,” Hoffman said.

There is no discussion about buying the property, Hoffman said. “We certainly don’t generate that kind of income. It would be a major change and it would take something along the lines of foundation money to make it happen. It would be lovely to think about it, but we’re a long ways away from ever seeing that happen.”

The farmers market’s annual budget is about $50,000, Hoffman said. Its by-laws mandate that the nonprofit market not earn more than its budget.

Geo Honigford, the owner of Hurricane Flats in South Royalton, has been a vendor at the market for 22 years. “I think it’s a good idea to have obligations spelled out between partners,” he said.

Andrea Rhodes, a co-owner of Sunset Rock Farm in Lebanon, which produces cheese, is now in her second year at the market. “I think having dedicated space is nice, and it’s nice that the market doesn’t have to move,” she said.

“It’s absolutely the right thing,” said Jinny Cleland, the owner of Four Springs Farm in Royalton. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t been threatened.”

The Norwich Farmers Market has offered a model for farmers markets that followed it. But for “great location and great visibility, said Rhodes, it is still one of the most sought-after locations in the state.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.




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