Valley Bounty: Winter Farmers’ Market in Hadley
Published December 9, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
A New Winter Farmers’ Market Sets Up Shop
With considerable effort from organizers, a new winter farmers market is coming to Hadley this year. Located on the grounds of Wancyzk Nursery at 166 Russell St, it will run every Saturday from 10 – 2. The market will offer local farms and businesses a critical sales point during the colder months and provide shoppers with one more access point for enjoying local food.
The launch comes on the heels of the previous Winter Farmers Market at the Hampshire Mall’s decision not to continue this year. Knowing that, the same team that runs the longstanding Amherst Farmers Market all summer stepped in to fill the void. Their new venture aims to blend vendors and customers from both markets into something new, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
“Farmers markets are very social places,” says market manager David Machowski. “Some people are on a mission to buy and leave, but most people come to loiter. We’re hoping for a decent turnout that generates attention and good sales for the vendors, and for the nursery.”
Machowski has been managing farmers markets for a long time. He led the Amherst summer market from 1986 to 2002, then returned to the helm in 2017. During his tenure, that market has flourished.
“On a good Saturday we can get upwards of 4,200 people shopping at the summer market,” he shares. “Flatteringly, the town has told me we are the third-largest economic driver for town of Amherst.” The hope is to carry some of that momentum over to Hadley this winter.
The choice to hold the market at Wanczyk Nursery emerged from Machowski’s friendship with owner Mike Wanczyk. The location’s large parking lot and central location on route 9 also make it well equipped to handle visitors coming by car or public transportation.
At their first market last week, vendors were set up outside in a clear area that during warmer months is otherwise filled with trees and nursery plants. The familiar Amherst Farmers Market pop up tent marked the entrance to the market, in front of which pre-cut Christmas trees, outdoor holiday decorations, and a fire pit greeted visitors. The nursery’s main sales building and greenhouse of houseplants and poinsettias sits right beside. A similar arrangement is planned for today’s market.
In the coming weeks, they hope to move the market into one of the nursery’s other heated greenhouses. However, that hinges on permitting and approvals from the town of Hadley, followed by work to modify utilities in the space. While those plans are in motion, the outcome is not yet certain.
“Hopefully we’ll have about 30-35 vendors from the summer market following us over to the winter market,” Machowski says. Local produce farms will anchor this agrarian display, including Red Fire Farm from Montague and Granby, Quabbin Hill Farm from Pelham, and Carrot Corner Farm from Amherst. Locally raised meat, eggs and cheese will also be available, along with a variety of baked goods, value-added products, and clothing and household items crafted by local producers.
“Berkshire Mountain Bakery and Bread Euphoria will be there with baked goods,” says Machowski. “Park Hill Orchard from Colrain will be there with all their pies and jams. Chase Hill Farm from Warwick will be there with meats and cheeses along with maple syrup and products from Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington.”
Other producers will offer a range of items from skin care products to herb and tea mixes to clothing made from local alpaca fiber.
For many businesses who attend local farmers markets, selling directly to their customers is how they make ends meet. Selling direct, rather than wholesaling at a lower price to an intermediary retail business, means producers can charge retail prices themselves. That means more of customers’ dollars go straight back to them.
Direct sales also give business owners an opportunity to meet their customers face to face. This helps them understand who they’re reaching, learn what customers want, and gain a clearer sense of market potential. These interactions also build trust and personal connections between the maker and buyer, which can inspire coveted word-of-mouth marketing.
For these reasons and more, the chance to sell at farmers markets can be crucial to the success of a local farms and food business, particularly for smaller and beginning business owners who haven’t developed other sales channels yet or aren’t big enough to do so. For them, the strength and abundance of farmers markets in the Valley has been a real asset, championed by energized community members and organizations like Mass Farmers Markets and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA). Indeed, there are several winter markets operating this year, up from a low point during the early days of COVID. At the same time, the fate of any market still matters a lot to its hopeful community of vendors, particularly in storied agricultural communities like Amherst and Hadley.
“I hope the community will stand with us as we get this market figured out. I hope they come out to support their neighbors and local producers,” says Machowski.
“This is their livelihood,” he continues. “Giving them a place to showcase themselves during the slower winter months is the biggest reason I took this on. I would have been perfectly happy laying on the couch watching Manchester United every Saturday morning. But this is important. So, we’ll be there with bells on and see what happens.”
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA. To see what farmers markets are up and running near you any time of year, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.