BURRILLVILLE – For the past 12 years, the Burrillville Farmer’s Market has been the place to go for local farm and garden products, with a dedicated group of volunteers working to help preserve the town’s rural character.
And in 2018, the market is expected to have around a dozen vendors on Saturdays at Stillwater Mill Pavilion, selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to art, snacks and clothing items. Entertainment and a variety of locally-made products have been added to the lineup over the years to the events, along with a weekday market Thursday afternoons.
The farmer’s market first opened in 2006 after the Burrillville Land Trust won a grant to start the program. The group put out an advertisement in a local paper seeking farmers, and opened on the Town Common in its first year.
Deb Yablonski, who runs the 90-acre Stonehenge Farm in Pascoag became vendor manager that year. Her farm raises more than 50 goats, along with chicken, ducks and rabbits, and sells products including meat, dairy, baked goods, jams and caramels.
“I went to that first meeting and I’m still here,” Yablonski told NRI NOW this week.
The initiative came in reaction to a trend of local farmers breaking up their land and turning it into house lots.
“The idea of the farmer’s market was a way to keep Burrillville rural by giving farmers a way to utilize the land they have,” said Yablonski. “Farming is a tough occupation. It costs money to grow things.”
The town, she notes, is also in something of a food dessert, and such markets were becoming increasingly popular in places like Providence.
By 2007, the Burrillville Farmer’s Market had become its own entity with 501c3 status.
The market remained at the common for several years and at first, only food was sold. Under Yablonski’s management, it grew to include artisans and entertainment, along with occasional children’s activities, community groups and education.
“I think farmer’s markets need to be something of an event,” she said.
In 2010, the group won a grant to build a pavilion at the Stillwater Mill Center and the following year, they opened up shop there, with a roof to end weather woes, along with running water and lights.
Currently, the vendors vary, and gather there from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays, peddling fresh beef, honey, baked good, eggs, cut flowers, plants, wool and handmade art. Among them, you’ll find Al Betterncourt of Bettencourt Farm, a 3rd generation farmer who was president and director of the Rhode Island Farm Bureau for 15 years. Bettencourt’s table offers fresh fruit and vegetables in season, including blueberries, peaches, eggplant, radishes, summer squash, zucchini and more.
On Thursday, David Nodal from Slow Mozy, part of a Chepachet-based cooperative, was on hand selling herbs, bee’s wax products and potted plants such as black current and goji berry.
Last year, the group also began holding the weekday market on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. The market accepts cash, debit, credit, SNAP and WIC, and offers coupons to qualifying seniors.
“It’s a lot of work and we’re all volunteers,” said Yablonski. “The people who come love it.”
Market organizers recently launched a campaign to eliminate plastic bags. Shoppers are asked to bring their own bags, or purchase one for a $1.50 donation.
“It’s all about creating the community you want to live in,” said Yablonski. “This is my town and I love seeing my townspeople.”