Farmers Market growing economics in Kingston

KINGSTON — Since the late 1980s, Kingston has bloomed with vendors every Saturday during a spring, summer and fall tradition — the Kingston Farmers Market. In preparation for the special Fourth of July market, several residents shared their favorite memories and how they feel the market has changed economics in the North End.

“The farmers market is really a community gathering spot,” said Stillwaters Environmental Center administrative director Naomi Maasberg. She and Stillwaters program director Joleen Palmer were managers of KFM during its early years. “It’s a viable place for small businesses to get started, and a place for people who don’t want to start a business but just want to sell things to do that. It functions as a small incubator, but the big thing is the community gathering place.”

Maasberg fondly remembers a less than pleasant market day when the rain was coming down hard, and the wind was blowing it into the tents. The market was canceled, except for one vendor who continued to sell bread out of her tent while Maasberg and Palmer held it down.

“People were dashing out of cars, but our customers kept coming,” Maasberg said. “Some came and asked why there was nobody else here. Regardless of the hurricane weather, Arlene was still selling her bread.”

Kingston Chamber of Commerce executive director Nancy Tietje said the KFM brings visitors who may not venture out of their cars to Mike Wallace Memorial Park, and by extension the other downtown businesses.

“Changes have been seen down there recently in that there have been many more produce and flower vendors,” she said. “The farmers market draws residents, many of which wouldn’t stop downtown on their way to work or the ferry. It brings a benefit to the community as an economic entity.”

“I think it’s fabulous, I’m down there almost every Saturday we’re in town,” said Downtown Kingston Association president Nancy Martin. “It’s a nice mix of community members, and attracts a lot of people waiting for the next ferry.”

The KFM also allows a different community group to set up a table at the market each week in an outreach effort, she said. It helps keep the flow of information circulating through Kingston. And it can be a relaxing place to visit.

“I personally like to go get produce and flowers,” Martin said. “It’s just always fun, you always see someone you know, and there’s a new surprise every week.”

Tietje, also a music teacher in the community, said her favorite recollection of the KFM is bringing her flute students down to perform. It served as entertainment, allowed the youth to play for the town and exposed the students to people who may not usually listen to them, Tietje said, something that may not have been possible without the market venue.

“The most important part to me is I see the Kingston Farmers Market as Kingston’s town square,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for neighbors to meet each other each Saturday.”

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