Charles Square Farmers Market: Food, Friends and First-times

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Lane Russell's picture

Seasoned farmers market goers give tips to market newcomers

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 Every Friday and Sunday from May to November in the Charles Plaza at Elliot and Bennett streets, Cambridge residents and farmers from surrounding areas gather for one event: a farmers market.  

Started 26 years ago by Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell and Grateful Farm in Franklin, the Charles Square Farmers Market has become an important fixture in the lives of many Cambridge residents, giving them the opportunity to indulge in the literal fruits of local vendors’ labor and enjoy a market that is, as their slogan reads, “run by the farmers for the people.”

What exactly is a farmers market? Becky Stillman of Stillman’s Quality Meat in Hardwick defined a farmers market as “an opportunity or place in which high-quality local produce and … commodities  [are] brought to people who don’t have necessarily the ability to get that otherwise.” 

Farmers markets give communities access to locally sourced food and products.  Many of these products, as Matt from Grateful Farm pointed out, are rarely present in the typical grocery store.

But the Charles Square Farmers Market is more than just a place for local vendors to sell their product – it is a place for friendship and community.  As Stillman described, vendors have a lot of regulars at the market and often form “phenomenal friendships” over the years.

Wendy of Kimball Fruit Farm said her favorite thing about the market is “the people,  definitely the people.” A shopper who has been coming to the Charles Square market for 15 said, “Its existence is my favorite thing.”  

The Charles Square Farmers Market brings locally sourced products to Cambridge residents as well as bringing shoppers and vendors together.  Willa, a market regular, said that her favorite part was, “You see friends and you get to walk home with a basket of food.  It’s always exciting.”  

For first-time farmers market goers, there is nothing to fear – the Charles Square market community welcomes with open arms. 

Matt’s advice for first-time market goers is: “Ask questions. Try things. Don’t be afraid.” 

Farmers markets are much more personal than grocery stores and vendors encourage shoppers to ask questions and try products.  “We’re educators about the different things you can do [with products],” Wendy said. 

She also stressed the importance of trying things and asking vendors questions, though it is important to keep in mind that all items at the market are seasonal, and that “what’s in season is what we sell.”  

Getting into specifics, shopper Willa said that if you are looking for USDA certified organic you are not likely to find it, but that local produce is better than organic anyway. 

“It’s much better to get something local,” she said  “It’s fresh…they harvested it this week.  That’s much better than something organic coming from way across the country.”

Trust that the food is high-quality, she added, and that the vendors take pride in their products and to “just go with it.”  

The Charles Square Farmers Market is open noon to 6 p.m.Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.  Schedules for other Cambridge markets can be found at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/parks/farmersmarkets.aspx.