2014-06-12 / From The Garden

Growers’ Markets in Full Swing

By Jacquelyn Moorehead

Island locavores can rejoice: the Aquidneck Growers’ Market is up and running for the summer season, operating at two locations in Newport and Middletown. As aficionados can attest, it doesn’t get any tastier than shopping locally for fresh-picked produce and newly harvested seafood. The market, celebrating its 20th year in Middletown and 17th in Newport, also has several new vendors joining perennial favorites.

Bally Machree Farm, of Middletown, has been selling at that town’s market since it began. Owner Bill O’Reilly said he started the farm for his wife and children to enjoy, but soon left work and started growing full time.

“I can’t grow enough garlic. People say it tastes different, and the garlic sells faster than I can grow it,” O’Reilly said. He noted that the market is good for the community, and his customers like knowing that the vegetables come from a local organic farm. O’Reilly and his wife pick heartier vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes, and beets on the Thursday before the market, but wait until the day before to harvest lettuce and spinach.

The farm also brings honey to the market, but O’Reilly advised, “You’d better come early because it goes fast.”

Bevan Linsley, season market manager, said the market’s main functions are to provide fresh vegetables to the community and help incubate new businesses. Vendors are able to sell their products with little overhead cost and the customer base is increasing.

“There has been substantial growth in the market traffic in Newport. People are more interested in their food and where it comes from, and the uptick reflects that trend,” Linsely said.

Simmons Farm attends both markets, offering meat, cheese, eggs and organic produce, and sees the same people week after week. “Many try to make it to every growers’ market; it’s a community connector,” said Karla Simmons, who owns the farm with her husband, Brian. “It’s a good opportunity for people to buy from many vendors in one place,” she added.

Linsley said that there are many new foodstuffs coming to the market this year. New businesses include Roots Farm, Bomster Scallops, and the Rhode Island Mushroom Company. Also new on the scene will be Tricycle Ice Cream and Farm to Gold. Farm to Gold makes and sells ghee, a clarified butter found in Indian cuisine.

“We try to serve our customers by providing as many items on their grocery lists as possible,” she said. They also offer live music at every market.

The Fresh Bucks system is returning for customers who prefer to use credit or debit cards. Market tokens can be purchased with credit cards or SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) cards and used to buy items from vendors.

Also returning is the Sustainable Aquidneck program. The Newportbased organization collects food waste from local restaurants and markets to create compost for the Middletown’s community farm and garden on Green End Avenue.

“People are really excited about this program, so we brought it back. They are happy to see that the compost from the local veggies they buy at the market are going full circle, back into the local earth,” Linsley said.

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