Ellington Farmers’ Market has managed to not only survive, but actually flourish despite the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID pandemic. While many area farmers’ markets cancelled their seasons, Ellington’s market is committed to continuing to assist local farmers and small food producers by providing a venue to sell their products directly to the public.
Using creative innovation and a willingness to make adjustments, the market opened its outdoor season in May in the front parking lot of Ellington High School, moving there from its home at Arbor Park. The temporary location provided ease of traffic control and vendor visibility to ensure a safe shopping environment. Pre-ordering was made available for customer convenience, and weekly theme and musical entertainment was placed on hold.
In July the market was able to return to its home at Arbor Park thanks to several dedicated volunteers who established a successful one-way traffic pattern that helped guide patrons each week. Favorite activities resumed, such as the Kids Power of Produce Club, which was adjusted from on-site, hands-on activities to take-home packets containing information and crafts that promote healthy eating for children. The market distributed $1,000 worth of tokens to local children to purchase their favorite fruits and vegetables from market vendors. Live music also returned, much to the delight of both the performers whose livelihoods were severely challenged by pandemic restrictions and market customers who enjoyed the live music while they shopped.
Community support for the market was unprecedented, and many vendors reported increased sales. The market extended its outdoor season to October 31, ending its season on a wintery day with two inches of frozen precipitation blanketing the ground. By the end of the outdoor market season over $16,000.00 in matching SNAP benefits was distributed to low-income seniors and families to enable them to obtain healthy, local foods through the market’s matching programs.
With the generous assistance and support from Ellington Schools’ Director of Operations Brian Greenleaf, the market was able to open its winter season at Ellington High School in November. Once again, much preparation was necessary to ensure that the layout and function allowed for a safe shopping experience. Twenty-five patrons display a wide variety of locally grown and raised farm products including produce, meats, dairy, honey, maple syrup and eggs. Seafood, baked goods, specialty foods, handcrafted soaps, bath, body and home cleaning products are all included in the weekly selections, in addition to vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings.
The market has three remaining dates: Jan. 23 and Feb. 6 and 20 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. at Ellington High School on Maple Street. The Matching Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) program will continue throughout the winter season.