GREAT BARRINGTON>>The Great Barrington Farmers Market, in its 26th year, is expanding options for locals on government assistance and offering local crafts in partnership with the Great Barrington Arts Market.
On Saturday, a bustling crowd wandered in and out of the Church Street parking lot, where vendors had set up in a loop to sell their wares. Blue Hill Farm grilled sausage at one end, Berkshire Mountain Bakery sold bread and other baked goods at another, and the Lucky 5 Band played its brand of Americana swing through the morning and early afternoon.
Director Alana Chernila was eager to talk about an exciting development for the farmers market. She told The Eagle that the market's partnership with the state's SNAP program has received a boost this year from the Berkshire Co-op.
"The Co-Op has given us a grant that doubles SNAP purchases," Chernila said.
In practice, she explained, this means that when people with food stamp benefits go to the market and purchase $25 in tokens, they receive $50.
"It doubles their spending power," Chernila said.
The program's success is easy to quantify because of the unique spending of SNAP. The market can track the participation of people using the benefits.
"We've had a huge response to this program this year, more than tripling our SNAP participation from last year's market," Chernila said. "It's a win-win for participants and vendors alike!"
One of those vendors is Hosta Hill. The Great Barrington based farm and lacto-fermenter of vegetables sets up on the west end of the lot and sells sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables.
"We have a farm on Division Street," said Maddie Elling. "Our goal is to eventually grow all our own vegetables, but for now we source a lot of our raw product through farms in the Berkshires and the Hudson and Pioneer valleys."
The farm will scale up production soon, Elling said, through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture.
The Great Barrington Arts Market has a row of booths featuring jewelry, pottery, and other locally crafted goods on the east end of the market. The arts market row is in the driveway of local businesswoman Jane Iredale, who has allowed the market to use the space.
On the end of the row, Cardi Montano explained to a rapt audience how she makes her handbags. Montano uses Green Guard certified vinyl, made in the US, for her sturdy bags. They carry up to 200 pounds, she said, and can be cleaned with just dish soap.
"My niece and I make every one of them," she said. "They're made locally."
Arts market coordinator Katie Burkle, the owner and operator of Kathryn Bee Designs jewelry, told The Eagle that the arts market is in its fourth year and going strong.
Burkle began designing jewelry as a hobby 10 years ago, she said, but decided four years ago to make a go of crafting professionally. Along with her friend Molly de St. Andres, whose business, Moho Designs, specializes in screen printed clothing, she formed the Great Barrington Arts Market in 2013.
"We've been doing the market for four years," she said. "We love it down here on Church Street."
The farmers market loves having the artists there, said Chernila.
"It's been great," she said. "The arts market is really nice for shoppers as another part of the destination."
Chernila said she is very happy with this year's market and the prospects for the future.
"People have a place to go where they can get lunch, listen to music, buy ingredients for dinner from local farmers, and get a gift," she said. "It's a very vibrant space."