Willimantic Farmers’ Market has a long history

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Aug. 6, 2013
Willimantic Farmers' Market master Sally Pappenheimer packs up produce as the market wraps up on Aug. 3. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Willimantic Farmers' Market master Sally Pappenheimer packs up produce as the market wraps up on Aug. 3. Photos by Melanie Savage.

According to Willimantic Farmers’ Market master Sally Pappenheimer, the Willimantic market is the oldest farmers’ market in the state of Connecticut. Founded in the 1970s at the railroad station, the market moved to Jillson Square. The current location, at the pavilion on the corner of Jackson and Union streets, came about when the property was deeded to the owner of The Shoe Smith on the condition that the market be allowed to utilize it free of charge, according to Pappenheimer.

The covered pavilion is a big draw, as far as Moosup resident Rachel Fraleigh is concerned. Manning her Rachel’s Veggies and Berries booth on Aug. 3 with her sister, Cecile Beauchemin, Fraleigh was offering a variety of produce including tomatoes, squash, blueberries and eggplant. Fraleigh said she used to come to town years ago to sell blueberries, and was invited by Pappenheimer to sell in Willimantic because the market needed more veggies. Fraleigh has been selling at different markets around the state for decades, and said that she got tired of setting up tents at some of the locations. At one market, “I think it was three weeks in a row that we had tornado warnings after we’d gotten all set up,” said Fraleigh. With the pavilion, vendors are more protected from the elements. “You don’t have to worry about setting up tents,” said Fraleigh.

At the Squash Squad booth, local students employed through EASTCONN, hosted by Grow Windham to work for the Food Corps, were selling veggies grown at three different locations around town: the WAIM Community Garden, Windham Middle School and a youth garden located at the Windham Region Community Council. On Aug. 3, the students were offering collard and kale greens, squash, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, basil, mint, eggplant and green beans. They will have tomatillos available later in the season.

“The vegetables sold at the farmers’ market will help fund the students’ projects,” said Kate Callahan, from Food Corps. Young people involved in the program (this year there are seven) work on a project with some connection to the food system. Some, for example, have developed gardening education programs for summer camp kids.

The Willimantic Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon at the corner of Jackson and Union streets in Willimantic. On Aug. 3, a D.J. provided music, and live entertainment is expected for the remainder of the season.

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