WESTFIELD — The Westfield Farmers Market’s 18th season promises to be full of good, local food, amazing entertainment, opportunities to learn about non-profit organizations and fun activities for the kids.

“This year will be my third as manager, and I have learned about the great generosity of Westfield and surrounding towns; our all-volunteer staff are local and from all walks of life,” said Lisa Zlody, manager of the weekly Thursday market. “Local businesses have been supportive of our fundraising efforts to ease food insecurity for area residents, and our customers make the market a destination.”

Among the many vendors this year are Doce Mercer Baked Goods, Jeff Bellefleur’s chainsaw carvings, Pignatares Farm, Ray’s Family Farm and Sandy Hill Apiary. Mack Soap, Wicker Woman Herbals, The Classic Grill and Sleepy Owl Herbs make their market debut this season. A complete list of vendors can be found at farmersmarketwestfield.org.

“We are starting a new program this season called POP Club for Kids. Each enrolled child between the ages of 4 and 12 will be given a POP Bucks voucher for $2 each week they attend the market, which they can spend on fruits, vegetables, or food-growing seedlings,” explained Zlody. “They have the option of spending their voucher each week or saving them up for larger purchases throughout the summer. POP Club will also include some physical activities with one of our volunteers and some arts and crafts projects. We are very excited to begin this project this year.”

Parents can sign up their children for this program at the market or at farmersmarketwestfield.org. Including children in the process is just one aspect of how the market has made itself a crucial part of the Westfield community.

“Markets help to sustain and expand the local agricultural economy for growers, provide fresher and healthier food than grocery stores, and allow customers to cook and eat the best seasonal foods throughout our market season,” said Zlody, who noted that it’s the customer support of the market that truly makes it a success.

“They help to support and sustain the local economy by bringing home the best in fresh produce, bread, bakery and other food items, and homemade crafts, listening to wonderful music by local artists playing all day, and learning about available social service programs and volunteer opportunities with the non-profit groups who attend each year,” explained Zlody.

She said the market is unique among those in the Pioneer Valley because, in addition to the produce, food items and crafts available, the market also features two musical acts each week. The four markets in June showcase the musical stylings of Harry Rock & John Severance, Chip Arnold, Ed Bentley, Glenn Weiser, Eva Cappelli, Daniel Russell and Gay Kotros.

A dedicated group of volunteers comes together to make the market successful, both by working the market and sponsoring things like the POP Club and SNAP Match program.

“We would love to have additional folks join us in running the market each week. If you like being outdoors, working with a great group of folks, hearing local music all day, and helping our customers, please contact the market,” said Zlody. “Likewise, if you would like to help support the market financially to expand our offerings and programs, please contact us. Our programming, including our SNAP Match and POP Club, are funded completely through donations and sponsorships, and we would like to continue offering these important benefits to our loyal customers.”

In 2023, the market saw over 10,000 customers over the season, a number that is a testament to the goals and wide appeal of the market itself. Many local groups attend to offer their services and information to the community. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield distributes free lunches each week while school is out of session. The Westfield Athenaeum promotes its summer reading program and creates activities for children. Rachel’s Table collects both fresh and nonperishable foods for those in need. The Westfield Cultural Council provides information on arts throughout the city. The Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Association offers growing tips and soil testing.

“I think some of the reasons for its longevity are our customers’ desire to purchase fresh, locally grown produce throughout the summer seasons, meet and get to know the people who grow and produce the food they are purchasing, and the variety of opportunities the market offers. There is truly something for everyone,” said Zlody.

The market runs from noon to 5 p.m. every Thursday from June 6 to Oct. 17 on the lawn in front of the Episcopal Church of the Atonement, 36 Court St. in Westfield.

Tina Lesniak
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