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Farmers Market begins new season in downtown Holyoke

Date: 5/16/2012

May 16, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — The new season of the Holyoke Farmers Market has begun and city officials intend to continue the food themes that have proven popular as well as offer more programming.

The first market featured a Zumba class and an asparagus cooking demonstration by Marty Fullwood, the director of the culinary arts program at Dean Technical and Vocational School.

Karen Mendrala, senior planner in the Planning Department told Reminder Publications cooking demonstrations will be part of each market, which will be conducted on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in front of City Hall on High Street.

Although the vendors at the first market were primarily selling flowers and vegetable plants, Mendrala said as the growing season progresses, more and more area farmers will be at the event. She said there would be a greater emphasis this year on Womena Infant Children and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients using the market.

Thanks to a grant, the market is participating in the Vegetable Prescription Program presented by Wholesome Wave, a non-profit group that encourages the growing availability of locally grown food. According to the group's website, the program's goal "is to improve health outcomes by providing community members at-risk for diet-related diseases (such as diabetes and obesity) with the resources to increase consumption of fresh, locally grown produce."

Besides the Zumba class, a group of preschoolers were learning to plant lettuce seeds and a steel drum was being played.

Mayor Alex Morse, addressing the crowd, said, "This is a great event for the city of Holyoke, bringing people downtown."

He noted there are also markets at Open Square and the Maurice Donahue School on Whiting Farms Road.

Robert and Mary Russell, who operate a farm in Westfield, said the earliest part of this year's growing season was very good, but with warmer temperatures and more sun, conditions should improve. Sitting in front of a large selection of vegetable plants and flowers, they said that despite the warmer than usual temperatures, the general rule of thumb was to wait until Memorial Day before planting a garden.

They added that many of their customers at this time of year keep the plants in pots on their porch or in the house and take them in at night to avoid night temperatures that may be too cool.

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