Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Towns Diverged in a Wood: The Great Farmers Market Schism of 2012

This morning I arrived in Massachusetts on the red-eye flight from Los Angeles, starving and exhausted. As I rode to my parents’ home in the town of Westwood, my mood improved drastically when I saw signs advertising the inaugural Westwood Farmers Market, which was to take place at the senior center this afternoon and every Tuesday afternoon henceforth.

The Westwood Farmers Market
I was thrilled to have timed my visit so perfectly. But little did I know, the circumstances surrounding this seemingly innocuous new farmers market were rife with tension.

The drama began over a hundred years ago when, in the late 19th century, two towns diverged in a wood. The people who lived in the woods in the northern part of a town called Dedham thought to themselves, “Hey, we live in the north wood. Let’s start our own town and call it Norwood.” Done.

Twenty-five years later, the people who lived in the woods in the western part of Dedham copied the new Norwoodians and thought to themselves, “Hey, we live in the west wood. Let’s start our own town and call it Westwood.”

Despite the appalling lack of creativity these people demonstrated in the town-naming process, they were successful: today, Dedham, Norwood, and Westwood coexist peacefully.

Until now. Norwood and Westwood have recently become entangled in what I have ridiculously decided to deem The Great Farmers Market Schism of 2012. Way back when the towns diverged in a wood, there were farmers markets all over the place. There wasn’t any other kind of market.

But now, farmers markets are kind of a big fancy deal, and since there are only a few months of the year during which it makes sense to even have a farmers market in Massachusetts, there is stiff competition for farm stands.

This year, Norwood decided to relocate its farmers market from the humble parking lot of a paint shop to the much more centrally located town square and gazebo. But that meant that all the farms that had been setting up shop there for years wouldn’t be able to park their vehicles close enough to transport their goods easily.

According to the disgruntled Norwoodians at the Norwood farmers market today, Westwood jumped at the chance to steal away the farm stands from Norwood. But if you ask a Westwoodian frequenting the new farmers market, they’ll say the farmers responded to Norwood’s random and inconvenient relocation by coming over to the better side of the woods.

However you look at it, all the farmers who used to sell in Norwood now sell at Westwood’s new market, and Norwood had to scramble to find new farmers to fill the booths. Both markets are held on Tuesday afternoons, so they’re in direct competition for customers.

Exhausted as I was, I committed my afternoon to seeing for myself which farmers market was the better of the two. The Norwood market is certainly bigger, with eleven booths (including Foxboro Cheese Company, which almost won me over with samples of goat cheese).
The Norwood Farmers Market
But the Westwood market has gumption. I chatted with Jim Cellucci, who owns and operates Great Harvest Bread Co. in Newtonville, MA (distance from my parents’ house: 14.7 miles) with his wife, Cheryl. He told me how they grind their own flour each morning on site at their very own stone mill. My mom purchased a loaf of their honey wheat bread, and we enjoyed it with olallieberry jam at teatime.
Jim Cellucci at the Great Harvest Bread Co. stand
We also bought a dozen eggs from Copicut Farms in North Dartmouth, MA (distance from my parents’ house: 58.7 miles). Elizabeth Frary, who owns Copicut Farms with her husband, Vincent, was operating the stand with her little boy, Emmet. They raise pasture-fed chickens and turkeys, selling poultry and eggs at farmers markets and operating a farm store during limited afternoon hours. Emmet won me over by pointing to the picture of a chicken on their business card and telling me, “That’s my chicken!” Apparently, its name is Scarlett.

In conclusion, in case it’s not clear by now, dramatic farmers market battles are quite silly. The more opportunities for local farmers to sell their goods, the better, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll frequent both!

Two towns diverged in a wood, and I –
Cared too much, I think.
And that has made no difference whatsoever.

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