Winter farmers market opens in new location
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | November 04,2012
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Hundreds of customers and venders attend the Vermont Farmers Food Center which opened in its new location on West Street in Rutland on Saturday morning. The building is the new home of the Winter Farmers Market.
It was not even open yet, but the parking lot was full and dozens of people already were wandering around the vendors at the new winter farmers market midmorning Saturday.
The day marked the first day of Rutland’s winter market and the opening of the Vermont Farmers Food Center, located at the newly transformed Mintzer Brothers building that sat empty for years.
“I don’t know what words (would describe the day),” said Greg Cox, one of the organizers of the market. “I feel surrounded by family, friends. … It brings tears to my eyes. It’s a great testament of Rutlanders.”
The Vermont Farmers Food Center is a project that Cox and Bill Clark of Wells have been envisioning for more than a decade. The goal is for the facility not only to be a place where community members have fresh, wholesale food, but also an educational center, a commercial kitchen and a distribution center for groups providing food.
“We are part of downtown,” said Cox, adding that it will not interfere with the summer farmers’ market on Depot Park. “In the summer, it’s going to be an event center hosting every agricultural event (we can).”
Charles Dodge, owner of Putney Winery, said it’s people like Cox and Clark who have put in the hours to make the market a reality.
“They had a vision of what a farmers market should be,” he said. “It’s a new place for people to come.”
Clark, who owns Clark Farm in Wells with his wife, said the food center is part of Vermont’s movement back to an agricultural center — getting local fresh food all the time.
“Before, we didn’t have the variety of foods,” he said. “I want to see it expand more than it already has. There is plenty of room for expansion.”
At a short opening ceremony on Saturday, Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras said the new center is part of Rutland’s economic development and urged the public to keep filling their bags with local food.
“We have to recognize that we are our future,” he told a crowd of more than 100 people. “You are the ones Rutland needs to embrace.”
Soon, the building also will be the Rutland distribution hub for the Vermont Foodbank, and part of the Rutland Community Cupboard. As of Saturday, it is home to more than 50 local food and product vendors — and more are hoping to get in, Cox said.
“We capped it at 55, but we are structured to get 80 small business owners,” he said. “We have a waiting list.”
Cox added, “This is the new Vermont country store, where people meet, where we catch up on the week. This is better than Facebook.”
Nancy Wisner, who owns Vermont Specialty Mushrooms in Pittsfield, could not agree more with Cox about what the new center will be.
“This is wonderful. This gives us an opportunity to display what we have,” Wisner said. “There is room to roam. People can spend the mornings here. I hope it becomes a destination.”
The Winter Farmers’ Market is located at 251 West St. It will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.