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First ever farmers' market gearing up for May 23 opening

Date: 5/11/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN - Judy and Karen Hatch, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law duo, are hard at work, gearing up for Hampden's first farmers' market, which will begin on May 23.

"We had a bright idea to use our parking lot, put up signs and have a farmers' market," Judy said, speaking of the parking lot of Village Country Kitchen, located at 522 Main St. "We decided to start it for two main reasons, the first being the economy. We want to have people who grow vegetables share them with the town. The second is to bring an esprit de corps to the community."

Judy and Karen began working on their plans March 1, and they have already visited the Planning Board, the Board of Health and the Board of Selectmen to establish the market. What they are focusing on now is signing up more vendors, getting the word out and becoming an official non-profit organization.

"We still have a lot to do," Karen admitted. "We've heard a lot of great ideas."

One of those ideas was to make the farmers' market more than just a place to purchase local produce. Space for local charitable and non-profit community organizations will be made available, and a shed will be put in place to collect bottles and cans with deposits to benefit local Boy Scout troops.

Why start a farmers' market now? "I think there is an interest in going back to backyard gardening and buying local," Karen said. "People like to know where their food is coming from, if it's fresh, if it's organic."

"There are a lot of people interested in this," Judy added. "They are cheering us on."

Judy said she is also working on ways to bring special events to the market twice a month. Face painting will be available for kids on opening day, the fire department will be hosting a demonstration on July 25 and a local beekeeper will also talk about his hobby.

"We hope this gets so big we have to move," Karen said. "We hope local businesses will get involved as well."

Vendors will be charged $1 a week to participate, or $15 for the entire season. Judy said she is currently looking for several vendors who can commit to the entire run of the market.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," Karen told Reminder Publications. "I was originally thinking of something much smaller, and before I knew it, it became this huge community event."

The 2009 season of the Hampden Farmers' Market will open May 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and run through mid-October.

Vendors, committee members, volunteers and sponsors are invited to contact Judy Hatch at 566-3963 or Karen Hatch at 566-2987 for more information.

Donations for the farmers' market can be sent to the Hampden Farmers' Market, P.O. Box 96, Hampden, MA 01036.