North Adams Farmers Market launching composting program

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NORTH ADAMS — The scraps of produce grown in the Northern Berkshires could soon return to the soil from whence it came.

The North Adams Farmers Market is launching with a new twist this year — a community composting program through which customers can discard fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grains and more.

"Market customers are welcome to bring their compostables to our new compost bins [Rubbermaid containers] and our participating market farmers will rotate turns taking the bins back to their farms for use in their composts," said Suzy Helme, the city's events coordinator.

The weekly market, in its 42nd year, launches for the season Saturday, with hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Composting is limited to fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds, coffee filters and tea leaves; crushed eggshells and nutshells; flowers and plant clippings; and bread, pasta and grain scraps.

Square Roots Farm in Lanesborough will take compost from the market and cycle it into the farm's existing piles of compost, which consist of everything from vegetable trimmings to chicken innards that are a byproduct of the operation.

"This just gets turned right in with that stuff so it doesn't go in a landfill," said farm co-owner Michael Gallagher.

In addition to helping local farmers, composting is beneficial for the environment. When allowed to decompose in a landfill, organic waste releases the greenhouse gas methane, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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"It's nice doing it at the market, because we're not going around making extra trips to pick up extra compost," Gallagher noted.

The composting program is one of a few changes that customers will notice at the market this year.

New vendors this year include Full Well Farm in Adams, the Polish Roadside Grill and baker Sheila Silsby. The market also is adding a Market Community Tent, which will feature two to four vendors every week who offer produce not currently offered at the market but who do not have the resources to commit as a regular vendor.

The Market Community Tent won't be ready in time for the opening weekend — instead, it will launch June 15 and will operate every other week.

The area will now include a few picnic tables and benches "to make the market more inviting and enjoyable," Helme said.

As in previous years, those reliant on food assistance programs can extend the power of their money at the market, thanks to the program dubbed "Market Match." Beginning on Saturday, those paying via their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will have the first $15 of their purchase matched, dollar for dollar.

The program is funded through community fundraising efforts, grants and sponsorship.

"This year, our goal is to raise about $13,000 in matching funds to allow us to double EBT/SNAP benefits spent at the market. We're currently hovering around the $10,000 mark," Helme said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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