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August 04. 2013 6:33PM

Farmers' market

Salem Farmers Market continues to flourish


Christine Stuart and her son, Nathan, 15, brought plenty of fresh produce from Arrow Head Farm in Newburyport, Mass. to the Salem Farmer's Market Sunday morning. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

SALEM — Three years ago when the town of Salem held its first farmers market in a local park, event organizer Jane Lang initially kept her expectations low.

"At first we were pretty small, as it fell under the recreation department," Lang said. "But soon it became pretty clear we needed a larger space."

Now held each Sunday at Lake Street Garden Center, the weekly market continues to grow in size and popularity, as more and more local consumers embrace the art of eating local.

Parking spaces were scarce on Sunday for the grand kick-off of National Farmers Market Week, with several dozen vendors onsite to sell fresh produce, honey, maple syrup and eggs along with some more unusual items like vegan and gluten-free baked goods and handcrafted jewelry, scarves and soap.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, who addressed a sizeable crowd of shoppers at Sunday's market, stressed the importance of shopping local and eating fresh.

New Hampshire currently has some 450,000 acres of farmed land, Hassan noted, and annual sales of agricultural and horticultural products are currently at $550 million.

"Our agricultural heritage is extremely important to who we are," she said. "Farming has been a central part of our state since its founding."

She lauded the Salem Farmers Market's new Double Value program, which allows EBT cardholders and other low-income shoppers to purchase tokens for double the value on foods purchased at the market.

"It's a good example of how we do things in New Hampshire," Hassan said. "We're people that engage with each other at a grassroots level."

State Agricultural Commissioner Lorraine Merrill , who likened the Salem market to "an Old Home Day that happens every week," said there are now approximately 80 farmers markets scattered across the state. Twenty of those markets, including Salem's, operate on a year-round basis.

Such events have done much to encourage small business operators, with start-up enterprises garnering more exposure.

Manchester resident Pamela Campbell decided in May to launch her own business after finding it increasingly harder to find foods suitable for her vegan diet.

Campbell, an engineer by day, began whipping up batches of her egg and dairy-free Whoopie pies in her home kitchen, much to the delight of her family and friends, who encouraged her to "go professional."

This summer, Campbell began selling her homemade goodies at the local farmers' market and she's hoping to soon sell her products to cafes and coffee shops.

Salem resident Lauren Alana, whose mother, Jeannette, accompanied her in her booth, showed off her handcrafted glass jewelry.

Alana said it takes her about two days to make each pendant and no two pieces are alike.

Some of her pieces incorporate chunks of sea glass, which Alana gathers herself.

"The beach is my happy place," she said.

Representatives from NH Right to Know GMOs were also on hand to encourage shoppers to eat freshly grown foods and stressing the importance of product labeling.

Simona Amiet, a native of Switzerland who now lives in Manchester, said that 64 countries already either require labels on GMO-containing products or ban them altogether.

"Why isn't this happening here?" she asked.

House Bill 660, which would mandate all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled as such, will head before the House this fall.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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