June 20th, 2024 | Your Arlington: Fish, flowers, ready-to-eat food and, of course, fresh produce found at weekly farmers' market

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kimball fruit farmKimball Fruit Farm stand at the first Arlington Farmers' Market of 2024. / Phoebe Mabuchi photos

Arlington’s first farmers' market of the 2024 season took place Wednesday, June 12, from 2 to 6:30 pm. That day, a dozen vendors set up at the Russell Common lot, 29 Mystic St., and welcomed a steady flow of people throughout the afternoon.  

The farmers’ market is run by Arlington EATS, a local nonprofit that informs the Arlington community about food insecurity and ensures access to healthy food. 

Arlington EATS was already an active part of the farmers’ market prior to taking over management last year, as it had helped integrate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the launch of Fresh Bucks. SNAP card holders can use these to purchase items from most vendors at the Arlington's Farmers’ Market each week through a $15 match in Fresh Bucks.  farm standDick's Market Garden has worked with the farmers' market since its establishment in 1996.

In 2023, Arlington EATS received a $90,000 grant through the Cummings Foundation annual grant program; the funding is being conveyed over the course of three years. According to Arlington EATS Executive Director Andi Doane, the nonprofit has so far used it to create a new website and branding, invest in new equipment and help pay for staffing. This funding also guarantees that they can continue to provide access to food- assistance programs, officials say.

“We are so grateful for the Cummings Foundation's support, which is helping us to continue the legacy of this beloved community event,” Doane said. The market is scheduled to run every Wednesday through Oct. 30.

Many longtime vendors are returning for the 2024 season, while so far there are two new vendors joining the farmers’ market this year: Craic Sauce, which sells handcrafted hot sauce made in Lowell, and Bridges Nepali Cuisine, offering popular Nepali dishes handcrafted in Winthrop.  Busa Farms offered a variety of  vegetables and herbs on opening day, June 12.

The market partners with five local growers who have worked with the market since it was established in 1996. They includes Busa Farm and Markets, Dick's Market Gardens, Flats Mentor Farm, Kimball Fruit Farm and Nicewicz Family Farm.

Along with those produce farms, the market on June 12 featured, among others, Oake Knoll Farms, which sells dairy products;  Copicut Farms, offering meat and eggs, and the Fish Lady, bringing in seafood straight from the Boston Fish Pier. Doane said that the Fish Lady tends to be a particular favorite with shoppers.

Each week is a bit different; the June 19 market had 13 vendors.

EATS staffers at Arlington Farmers' Market listen to customer input and try to make changes accordingly. For example, “Customers were also asking for prepared food they could enjoy while browsing the market. We're thrilled that Bridges Nepali Cuisine will be with us this season after a hiatus due to the pandemic,” Doane said.

The market sells more than food; flowers also are available.Right when the market opens, at 2 p.m., is typically the busiest time, according to Johanna Niles, EATS Market's community food access manager, who is at the farmers' market weekly. Generally, in the early afternoon, a lot of older adults shop there; many come from the three public senior housing buildings within walking distance. Once other people get out of work later in the day, the average age of the crowd tends to get younger. 

On June 12 at around 4 p.m., most shoppers attended the market alone, in pairs or accompanied by pet dogs. The shoppers engaged in conversation with the vendors as well as each other, discussing the best food items to purchase. The majority appeared to have brought reusable bags with them to carry their purchases. 

Asked her personal favorite, Niles couldn’t choose. “Having a favorite vendor would be like having a favorite aisle in the grocery store!” 

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