By Julia Howe Sullivan
For many of us, it feels as though a summer weekend wouldn’t be complete without a visit to our local Farmer’s Market. Saturdays on the green mean a scene bustling with people delighting in a cornucopia of local products and engaging vendors.
From fresh produce to gourmet prepared foods, from hand-knit accessories to unique jewelry, market goers have the luxury of a variety of goods at their fingertips.
With our beloved town’s 250th anniversary celebration around the corner, we thought this would be a good time to check-in with the market and see how things are going.
It’s hard to believe that the market, a staple of our summer community landscape, began just eight years ago. In 2006, Tod Whitaker of the Shelburne Business and Professional Association (SBPA) played an instrumental role in getting the farmer’s market going. The goal was to encourage people to visit Shelburne on Saturdays.
“The market has certainly met that goal,” Whitaker says. “For 20 weeks of the year, it has become a gathering place on Saturday mornings for residents and non-residents to shop for local foods and to meet and greet their neighbors.”
When the market began, 27 vendors lined up along Church Street. Initially, vendors set up in the parking spaces, but it eventually became clear that those spaces were needed for the church and/or market visitors. The market was moved into the middle of the Parade Ground and it’s proven to be an excellent home for the vendors.
“By moving to the middle of the Parade Ground, we were able to increase the number of booths to 52,” Whitaker explains. “We have a great space that vendor vehicles don’t tear up and market customers can safely enjoy.”
The market, which runs from May 25 to Oct. 12, consists of 50 percent agricultural goods, 30 percent prepared foods, and 20 percent crafts.
Of the 27 original vendors, 13 continue to happily offer their products at the market.
Jennie Rooke, co-owner of Rookie’s root beer, has been involved since 2006 and says she appreciates the tranquility and community feel of Shelburne’s market.
“The Burlington market is glorious, but it feels a bit more like a festival,” Rooke shares. “In Shelburne the lines aren’t as long, but the quality is just as high.”
Rooke says she enjoys the continuity of market goers and the time she has to make direct connections with customers.
“I love seeing these families come together every Saturday,” Rooke says. “In a way, I’ve watched a lot of these kids grow up in the last eight years.”
Arthur Shelmandine, owner of It’s Arthur’s Fault, is also one of the original vendors. With his trademark hot fudge, caramel, and marinades, Shelmandine has really enjoyed his summers with the market.
“It’s a lovely set-up,” the fudge pro explains. “It’s so easy to be here, as opposed to Burlington, and it gives us an opportunity to really connect with the customers face to face.”
Across the board, vendors agree that the atmosphere of the Shelburne Farmer’s Market—open, steady-paced, friendly, family-oriented, and accessible—is ideal.
Looking forward, Whitaker says there aren’t any big moves to make. The market has been a total success and he only sees it continuing to thrive with each passing year.
One minor addition that Whitaker would like to offer is a booth for local non-profit organizations. This booth would be available on a rotating week-to-week basis. Whitaker says the spot still needs to be defined, but he sees it as a wonderful opportunity for local groups to share their mission and perhaps raise money for causes that would be mutually beneficial to the town and organization.
In short, the market has quickly become a favorite part of summer in Shelburne. It’s on rain or shine; hope to see you there.