Hebron Farmers' Market braves the heat

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Jul. 23, 2013
Hebron resident Jean Roberts, owner of the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Manchester, offers up fresh-baked goods at the Hebron Farmers' Market on July 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Hebron resident Jean Roberts, owner of the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Manchester, offers up fresh-baked goods at the Hebron Farmers' Market on July 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Hebron resident Jean Roberts was a customer of the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Manchester when she found out that the owners were looking to sell. “I’ve always been a baker,” said Roberts. So she purchased the shop. That was 10 years ago. Roberts has been selling at the Hebron Farmers' Market since it opened five years ago.

On July 20, she was doing a brisk business, many customers coming in search of regularly-purchased items. “I do find that a lot of people come right over, looking for something in particular and wanting to make sure that they get here before it’s sold out,” she said.

Many people are unaware that The Great Harvest Bread Co. is a franchise, but one which offers its owners a great deal of latitude in terms of product, store décor and other issues. One of the most important requirements that owners must honor is that flour must be milled on the premises, according to Roberts.

Wheat is milled, cooled and used the next day. “So the flour is less than 48 hours old,” said Roberts. “It’s got all of its nutrients. We don’t use any preservatives. It’s fresh.”  Bread in the grocery store “has a sell-by date, but does it have a baked date?” asked Roberts. When you buy a commercial loaf at a large grocery store, “You don’t know when that bread was baked,” said Roberts. At Great Harvest, “The bread is baked Tuesday, sold on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Roberts. “On Thursday it goes to a local charity.”

Roberts said that her menu is changed around on a daily and weekly basis. “We have so many different items that we can’t possibly offer everything at once,” she said. At the market on July 20, Roberts was offering a wide variety of loaves, muffins, cookies, scones and even dog biscuits. “The breads were all baked this morning,” she said.

Roberts said that on an average day she produces more than 300 loaves of bread, beginning the baking process at 3 a.m. “That’s nothing compared to Thanksgiving,” she said, adding that she normally produces between 1,600 and 1,700 loaves on the two days preceding the holiday.

Nearby, Shari Hurst from Hurst Farm was waiting on customers with her daughter, Sheila. Though the market has shrunk a bit in size, “we still have a big following,” said Hurst. “I think a lot of people really appreciate having something in town,” she added. “We have a very supportive base of people.” The Hursts were offering honey and syrup produced on their farm, blueberries, squash and other early-season vegetables. They also offered sweet pickle relish, jellies, jams, salsas, dips and mixes. As the season progresses they will have a wider variety of produce to offer, including potentially some berries and tree fruits. “We kind of let nature do its thing,” said Hurst. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.”

Jim Corso, from Ole Murphy Farm, was also offering local syrup and honey, free-range eggs, chickens and a small selection of local vegetables. Later in the season, he will have game birds, including pheasant, quail and partridge. Corso said that, in general, the growing season has been tough so far, with a potentially bountiful strawberry crop getting knocked out by fungus due to torrential rains. “Except for the shallots,” said Corso, holding up a sleek, perfect specimen. “These are the most beautiful shallots I’ve ever seen.”

The Hebron Farmers' Market is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the parking lot of the Church of Hope of Hebron at 1 Main St.

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