Bob’s Note: Well, this week one of my goals for the season comes to fruition. All season I’ve been trying to talk one of the “original six” vendors from 2009 to write a blog about their experiences during the early days of the Market. Let me tell you, they’re a reluctant bunch when it comes to talking about themselves! But eventually Liz Abruzzino of Hawthorne Valley Farm stepped up to the plate. And I think you’ll agree with me when I say she hit a home run with her anecdotes here. And I will attest that they are all true. Thanks Liz!
Actually, we planted six! In July, 2009, the Bridgeport Farmers Market opened at the parking lot in front of Bridgeport High School with six cautiously optimistic vendors lined up and ready to go. The rest is history!
None of this would have been possible without our visionary, enthusiastic, and tireless Board of Directors who saw the opportunity and made it happen. Debbie and Bob Workman and Betsy and Kent Spellman are still with us, along with Dave High who worked ex officio until the move to Charles Pointe.
At the first market, we arrived to find market provided tents set up and tables in place. That seed, I might add, was one of the few that quietly withered on the vine as the number of participants grew! By year two, in fact, we had two rows of vendors’ tents, nearly filling the parking area.
In the early years, we encountered what came to be euphemistically referred to as “slack periods”. Imagine the BFM today with nary a customer in sight! Believe me, it happened! CD Cole, definitely our most colorful vendor, would stand in the middle of the market, looking to the heavens, while loudly beseeching SOMEONE to buy SOMETHING! And as time passed, they did.
From day one music has been an integral part of our market. Mark Shelhammer provided the entertainment back then with his unique trumpet playing. In community spirit he donated any proceeds to his local church much as Annie Neeley and company aided with the recent flood relief efforts. Musicians are good people! With the help of resident musician Rus Ruppert the BFM has evolved into what the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram recently recognized as an important local music, as well as food, venue.
This collective creativity surfaces in other areas as well. The Market was initially envisioned as a food only venue. Yet it soon became apparent that farmers, by nature, are a very creative bunch! Our talented artisans are the “proof in the pudding”. Extra goat’s milk, or tallow, or lard, became soap. A fallen tree is transformed into a one of a kind wooden bowl or hardwood cutting board. We grind grain or corn for meal and flour, pick up a dried gourd and see a birdhouse. “Value Adding”, ag talk for turning trash into treasure, provides a nice boost to our sometimes meager bottom line.
Yet seeds are planted to celebrate food and in this mission the Market has never wavered. We teamed with local restaurants who used our products in their cooking demos. We encouraged and supported community cook-offs and farm dinners. Another early vendor, Lenora Destito, held monthly fritti fries. Provence Market set up a brunch tent, soon adding tables and chairs for dining. We were becoming the destination we are today.
Before we become too complacent, however, we must consider the one fickle given of a farmer’s life, as well as an outdoor market’s, the weather. When the “Winds of Charles Pointe” kicked up several weeks ago I was reminded of the Perfect Storm which visited the fledgling BFM at the high school. It was a torrential downpour, lightning flashing all around us, striking a tree across the road. My husband and son-in-law jumped on plastic coolers to provide a dubious “ground” while holding down our ballooning tent. The storm sewers were overwhelmed as a tributary of Simpson Creek surged through the center of the Market, carrying with it odd fruits and vegetables – no bananas! – as well as the shards of broken canning jars and their contents. In the midst of all this, Anne Hart of Provence Market, presenting a cooking demo, gathered in her spectators, lowered the tent canopy, and, undaunted, continued to the finale.
By the next Sunday we were all back, smiles on our faces, glasses half full. Undaunted, isn’t that the nature of a farmer? Truly, and with a nod to Paul Harvey, “God created the farmer”.
Our farmers planted some very viable seeds and they continue to flourish. No chance this group is going to wither on the vine! Today, a special nod to the originals–those still with us from our high school parking lot days. Stop by, say hello, and remembering CD, maybe you could Buy Something! Now, how could anyone resist?
Here are the original six. Amazingly, the first five of these folks are still with us!
Gardner Farms – Becky and Larry Gardner
Shipley’s Forest Hill Farm – Barb and Randall Shipley
Hawthorne Valley Farm – Liz and Frank Abruzzino
The Herb Ladies – Ann Nye and Carol Schweiker
Dave’s Greenhouse – Dave Reynolds
Cole Farms – CD Cole