Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Produce for sale at Somerville’s Union Square Farmers Market. (Photo: Union Square Main Streets)

The warm-weather farmers market season is underway in Cambridge and Somerville, selling locally grown food weekly until late October or mid-November.

Farmers markets bring small businesses and fresh food to town, many working through Mass Farmers Markets – a nonprofit dedicated to connecting communities with farmers to foster a stronger community and healthier habits.

“It is very important for people to know where their food is coming from,” said Sky Simon, a Mass Farmers Market manager who works at the Central, Davis and Kendall events. Grocery stores don’t offer that information, while the “hyperlocal” nature of farmers markets creates a conversation between the consumers and the growers of their food.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, Mass Farmers Markets offer baked goods, honey, kitchenware and a rotating menu of products through a schedule of pop-up vendors. There’s often live music and opportunities to participate in community events, such as a beehive demonstration or a tomato-growing competition.

Simon likes being able to compare vendors’ processes and products. “I feel like I’m always having interesting conversations and learning new things,” Simon said.

The markets accept most government-issued food aid. Mass Farmers Market offers a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit match program of up to $15 per week per market at participating vendors. Additionally, $40 to $80 is returned to customers’ electronic benefit transfer cards monthly depending on household size. To participate in the programs, shoppers should visit the market managers; at Mass Farmers Market events, they’ll be in a tent under a purple banner.

The match program and other benefits are “a big part of encouraging people to be able to use their money at the market and have it be affordable, similar to how a grocery store would be,” Simon said.

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Plants as well as produce sell at farmers markets such as in Central Square. (Photo: Central Square Farmers Market via social media)

Central Square, Cambridge

  • When? Mondays from noon to 6 p.m. until Nov. 25.
  • Where? 76 Bishop Allen Drive parking lot behind H Mart and Graffiti Alley
  • Number of vendors: 15 weekly and nine nonweekly vendors
  • Special feature: The Central Square Farmers Market hosts a Bipoc Vendor Initiative to create equitable access to farmers markets and the community for businesses including Cocobelly Bites, offering Jamaican food, and Giant Gorilla Greens, selling microgreens.
  • Look for: Cambridge Public Library card signups, bike repairs and a youth tomato-growing contest, and knife-sharpening visits from Sharper Harper.

Cambridge Health Alliance and the Cambridge Public Library are partners in the event, and the Bikes Not Bombs Hub & Bike Shop in Jamaica Plan said it expects to visit and repair bikes occasionally. Children have the opportunity to learn about the natural world with City Sprouts, an organization dedicated to equity in science and connecting with nature. Children attending the market will get free tomato starts and tips to grow their own tomatoes for a contest during National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 4-10. The tomatoes will be analyzed, cut open and tasted by chefs at the contest. Additionally, the market is growing tomatoes on a floating wetland in the Charles River and invites a nutritionist to attend.

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The Farmers’ Market at Harvard (photo via the event’s social media)

Harvard University Farmers Market, Cambridge

  • When? Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until Oct. 29.
  • Where? Harvard Science Center, 1 Oxford St., near Harvard Square
  • Number of vendors: 12 1o 15 weekly
  • Look for: Hooked, which features a wide variety of fresh local fish. Gria Food of Milton specializes in cashews – spiced, roasted, salted or plain. And Olive World of Charlestown has much of what you’d expect from the name: Marinated olives, olive tapenades and Moroccan olive oil. Founded in 2005, the market regularly offers a range of foods from produce, dairy products, breads and cereals and meat, poultry, and fish to snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages and even seeds and plants. The market closes Oct. 20 for the Head of the Charles Regatta.

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Brooke Hutton visits the Davis Square farmers market with her dog Pretzel every week during her lunch break. (Photo: Madison Lucchesi)

Davis Square, Somerville

  • When? Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. until Nov. 27
  • Where? 44 Day St. parking lot, across from Sacco’s Bowl Haven
  • Number of vendors: 17 weekly and nine nonweekly vendors
  • Look for: Knife-sharpening visits from Sharper Harper and composting help and services from Garbage to Garden.

The Davis Square Farmers Market is a “a really fun one … cute and community-oriented,” like the Central Square market, Simon said.

The Good Food Farm, which raises bees and chickens and grows without pesticides or herbicides in Ashby, is a regular at the event, selling fresh, organic vegetables and canned goods. “You can get notably higher quality vegetables” at the markets, The Good Food Farm’s Andrew Johnson said. “The lower carbon footprint is exciting to me.” Allison Hall, another employee at the farm, noted the “really good conversations with people” at the markets, which offer “not only the fresh food, but a personal connection.”

Andrea Cherkerzian, owner of a 6-month-old gluten-free bakery called P.S. I Love You that is one of the pop-up vendors at the market, also appreciates the ability to meet new people. Buying her lemon, chocolate and cinnamon coffee cakes and a newly launched chocolate chip cookie, “they tell me I’ve changed their lives” with tasty gluten-free desserts, Cherkerzian said.

Brooke Hutton visits the Davis Square market with her dog Pretzel every week during her lunch break. “Supporting local is probably the biggest thing” she enjoys about a farmers market, she said, though she wishes there was a larger selection of fruits and vegetables.

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Produced at the Kendall Square Farmers Market. (Photo: Mass Farmers Markets via Facebook)

Kendall Square, Cambridge

  • When? Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m. until Nov. 21.
  • Where? 1 Broad Canal Way sidewalk across from the Volpe Center
  • Number of vendors: 12 weekly and five nonweekly vendors.
  • Look for: Native plant vendors and demonstrations in the fall.

The Kendall Square Farmers Market is still growing after being closed for three years during the pandemic. It reopened with the help of BioMed Realty, which “helped us establish the market and start rebuilding a customer base,” Simon said. Most marketgoers are people who work in the area who visit on their lunch break or on their way home.

Despite its small size, the market hosts fruit and vegetable vendors as well as bakeries, different cuisines, and the popular SamosaMan Exotic Food. In the fall, the Kendall Square neighborhood hosts a create-your-own floral arrangement event for which the farmers market brings in native plant vendors. Throughout the market’s operation, vendors occasionally offer demonstrations with monarch caterpillars and other special events.

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Summer berries are plentiful at the Charles River Farmers Market in Harvard Square. (Photo: Charles River Farmers Market via social media)

Charles River Farmers Market, Cambridge

  • When? Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Where? The Charles Hotel at 1 Bennett St.
  • Number of vendors: Four on Fridays, nine on Sundays
  • Special feature: Open year-round

In the winter, the Charles River market operates out of small red sheds; for the summer, the market transitions to sidewalk tents for the traditional farmers market experience.

The Charles River market hosts more vendors on Sundays, when there are fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats and fresh pasta. Hi-Rise Bread Co. offers freshly baked bread, quiche and cookies. On Fridays, four farms offer fresh produce and eggs to customers – including Hickory Nut Farm from Lee, New Hampshire, which sells a line of goat milk products including aged cheese, soap and cleaning products.

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The Union Square Farmers Market has around 50 vendors selling at various times. (Photo: Union Square Main Streets)

Union Square Farmers Market, Somerville

  • When? Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 26
  • Where? Union Square Plaza
  • Number of vendors: Ten, joined by among an additional 41 vendors on certain dates
  • Look for: A wealth of prepared foods and specialties from single-product sellers such as Chappy’s Pickles, Craic Sauce and Olive World. Aya’s Culture Kitchen of Arlington brings natto, “Japan’s famous fermented soybean superfood,” that certainly isn’t as famous as, say, acai.
  • Special feature: The city was awarded a grant to distribute Green & Yellow Cab vouchers to help residents get to food easier. For a cab voucher, click here.

The biggest game in town has produce, dairy, meat and seafood, baked goods, beverages and prepared foods, specialty goods and services such as composting and knife-sharpening, and flowers. No market Sept. 21.

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Stillmans Farm and Stillmans Quality Meat provide the products at the Cambridgeport Farmers Market. (Photo: Stillmans Quality Meat)

Cambridgeport Farmers Market, Cambridge

  • When? Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until mid-November
  • Where? The Morse School at 40 Granite St.
  • Number of vendors: One

The Cambridgeport Farmers Market is the smallest in Cambridge, featuring just Stillmans Farm, with fruits, vegetables and plants grown in Lunenburg and New Braintree, and Stillmans Quality Meat, from animals raised and butchered in Hardwick.

The market closes Oct. 19 for the Head of the Charles Regatta.