Every market happens for a reason! There are hard-working farmers that organize nearly every farmers’ market in Maine. This series of market stories showcases some of the many unique, adaptive and resilient Maine farmers’ markets.
The Augusta Farmers’ Market at Mill Park is the major farmers’ market of the capital area. Located in downtown Mill Park, the farmers’ market offers a wide variety of local foods to the Augusta community, commuters, and tourists in the area. The market’s downtown location makes it a short walk for many people in the neighborhood. The market is one of a few in the state that takes place underneath a pavilion, which offers refuge for shoppers and vendors during hot sunny days (and rainy ones, too!).
The Farmers’ Market at Mill Park has the feel of a small town community market, despite being in an urban environment. That vibe is due to the community-minded market members who have worked hard for years to make the market accessible to all community members. The market has strategic partnerships from MaineGeneral Health and the City of Augusta. This has provided the market with resources to conduct effective community outreach and employ a part-time staff person to operate their information booth.
Market members, like Dalziel Lewis of Dig Deep Farm, are proactive in promoting to shoppers with low-incomes. The market and its members offer Maine Senior FarmShare, WIC and Maine Harvest Bucks to support community members who are experiencing poverty purchase more healthy food. Last year, the market provided more than $10,000 in free fruits and vegetables through the Maine Harvest Bucks program. “A significant portion of our shoppers are families and seniors, many of whom receive assistance through SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to supplement their income. When they come to our market they’re buying healthy foods, learning healthy habits, and teaching the next generation of Mainers where their food comes from” says Dalziel, who is also the market’s Treasurer.
In non-pandemic times, shoppers get to experience additional festivities at the market. This includes live music from local musicians and cooking demonstrations and taste tests from UMaine Cooperative Extension. There’s even a story time provided by the local library for children who visit the market. The Mill Park Farmers’ Market market embodies many of the roles we envision Maine farmers’ markets to fulfill. It is a gathering place for people to be connected, support the local economy, receive nourishing food, learn and grow.
During the pandemic, the market offers a safe and secure place to shop for amazing food. Vendors are spaced out under and outside of the pavilion to limit crowding and allow everyone to maintain 6 feet of distance. Each vendor offers full-service shopping at their booths. There are signs posted to remind all shoppers and vendors to wear their masks. Hand sanitizer is available for everyone. Market members are reporting an increase in new shoppers this year, which is common at markets throughout Maine. Many shoppers report feeling safer shopping outside in the open air. “Now more than ever, people need to feel connected to their community” says Kelby Young of Olde Haven Farm, the market manager at Mill Park Farmers’ Market.
Shoppers at this market can find local fruits and vegetables from Dig Deep Farm, Eagle View Farm, Popp Farm and Andrews Farm. Bread and bakery treats are on offer from B & T Baked Goods. Olde Haven farm is brings the bacon, pork and lamb products to market (in addition to veggies). The Chef’s Cupboard is a great stop to learn how to spice up your dishes and discover new flavors. You’ll find goat cheese, gourmet olive oil, and fresh mushrooms from Maine Mushroom Co (based in Augusta!). There’s certainly more vendors at this market to explore – find them on their website.
You can shop at the Mill Park Farmers’ Market any Tuesday from 2-6pm from May to October. During the winter months, the market goes inside to keep providing their community with nourishing local food. Stay tuned to their website and Facebook page to learn of their winter market plans during Covid-19.