Sprouts for the Season:
Plants itself at Saugatuck Congregational Church
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – An open space behind Saugatuck Congregational Church that was bare Saturday was lush with plants and greens come Sunday morning.
This was no mysterious herbaceous takeover but the seasonal return of the Sunday Farmers Market to the rear parking lot at the 245 Post Road East church property. On the opening day, six vendors were onsite with offerings that not only included a wide variety of flowers, vegetables and herbs, but also bread, jams, eggs, gourmet spreads and meat.
“This is the third year for the market,” said Lexi Gazy, executive director of the event. “As the season gets going, we’re hoping for ten steady vendors. These are a mix of farms and local businesses. This is a wholesome family event and opportunity for people to revisit Westport’s agricultural roots. Our goal was to get more local.”
Gazy added that all the vendors are members of Connecticut Farm Fresh Cooperative and pay the market expenses, including rental of the parking lot space, advertising and insurance.
Buying a mixed herb pot containing parsley, chives, basil, thyme and oregano, Fairfielder Pat Kearns said, “This is traditional for me to visit the market. I usually come for fresh cut flowers but I also find treats like sweet pickles. I like to support local organic farms. Later in the season, the flowers are just outstanding.”
Angela Belta of Belta Farms, from which Kearns was making her purchase, spoke about her business. “We’re a 66-year-old family-owned farm right here in Westport on Bayberry Lane,” she said. “My grandfather James started the business in 1945 as a chicken farm. Over the years, it evolved to growing wholesale produce and flowers. Then, over the last couple of years, we shifted to farm markets and operating a stand on our property.”
Belta said the market’s local location was appealing. “I like the fact that this market is Westport-based like us, literally down the road,” she said. “It’s easy for us to replenish our supplies. We have a lot of regular customers who come to see us.”
Ed Gazy, husband of the event director and owner of Gazy Brothers Farm out of Oxford, cited other reasons spurring his participation. “We’re on a back road so we do a lot of farmers markets to get exposure,” he said. “We grow vegetables and sell flowers in hanging baskets. Right now we’ve got kale, beets, radishes, leek and mixed lettuce. In a couple weeks, we’ll have tomatoes.”
Visiting Westporter Addison Armstrong said the market took him by surprise. “I was coming back from walking my dog and saw the trucks pulling in,” he said. “This was a nice surprise and I’ve been able to pick up some great fresh bread and lettuce. It’s good to be out, and great that the rain held off.”
Happy to be displaying its wares was Du Soleil, a New Canaan-based catering business. “We started as a restaurant 26 years ago, closed in 2008 but continue to offer soups, salads and catering,” said owner Soledad Del Castillo. “Everything is fresh made in our kitchen. In the summer, when we have more vegetables, we do a lot of salsa and tomato-based dishes.”
Down the row from Du Soleil was Dave Finn and Paul Scherbner of Eaglewood Farms in Barkhamstead, which keeps 20 cows and 300 pigs on average every year. “We come down from north of Torrington to be here,” said Finn, the owner. “Most of our customers are in the south end of Connecticut, so this is an important destination for us. They look for us and we bring our meat to them. We offer any pork and beef cut.”
Stephanie Mergenthaler, a Westporter, had filled a couple bags she’d brought with her. “I like to come down to stock up on excellent salad, fresh bread, soup and herbs for my garden,” she said. “I’m going to plant rosemary and thyme. It’s going to be the start of my herb garden. It should be an interesting experiment.”
Manning the Smith’s Acres Farm stand, Guadaloupe Lopez spoke about his current inventory and treats yet to come. “We have many kinds of flowers, herbs and vegetables,” he said. “We come here every year. People like us and all the variety. Later in the season, we have apples, berries and peaches.”
For more information about the Sunday Farmers Market, visit http://www.sundayfarmersmarket.net/