Best known for ski slopes, hiking trails, psychedelic fall foliage, and the Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe Vermont has another temptation to offer visitors: a rollicking farmers’ market. When the market began in 1993 it consisted of a dozen vendors–predominantly farmers selling organic produce to a smattering of Stowe residents. Within two years the market was a hit. By 2017, the market has expanded to over 40 regular vendors with diversified goods.
Boasting “the best of Vermont” (all items are grown or produced in Vermont), the Stowe Farmers’ Market draws local foodies plus an influx of tourists. Cars sporting license plates from Montreal, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida are interspersed with those from the Green Mountain State. My visit happens to coincide with the annual British Invasion event in Stowe. An army of MGs, Triumphs, and Jaguars with Union Jacks swarm the parking lot.
Vendors set up tables in a grassy field with wooden picnic tables and a band at the center. Verdant hills and valleys remind me of the Vaucluse region of Provence. The market reflects the mixed appetites and interests of its clientele. Barbeque smoke wafts from Black Diamond’s stand, as do onion smells from scallion pancakes being made fresh-to-order on the griddle at Green Mountain Potstickers. The aromas are enough to coax a hunger no matter how recent breakfast was.
Artists sell jewelry, ceramics, slate works, photography, and other crafts. Green Seed Herbals makes medicinal salves and organic skin care products. There’s a large number of specialty vendors, but thankfully there are still numerous farmers who regularly attend and bring their high-quality goods.
The Sandiwood Farm stand beckons with vibrant flower bouquets, carrots colorful as a rainbow, and tender salad greens. Located in Wolcott, Vermont, their farm is a destination for farm-to-fork dinners and other special events. Farmer Sue sells eggs, pickles, and tomatillos. If fermented foods are your thing, head to Sobremesa for kimchi and pickled beverages.
Pure maple syrup is ubiquitous in Vermont and several options are available at the Stowe market. Most maple syrups come in sturdy plastic jugs. Others are packaged in stout glass bottles that glimmer a golden brown, resembling small-batch bourbon. Elm Brook Farm ages maple spirit in oak barrels. It carries a hint of vanilla and spices.
Cheese is almost as synonymous with Vermont as maple syrup. Vermont claims to have the highest number of cheesemakers per capita. Sage Farm Goat Dairy makes cheeses that range from firm and mild-flavored to pungent and gooey. I try their Sterling, a French Valançay-style cheese dusted with ash and shaped like a flattened pyramid. It’s dense and creamy, immediately to my liking. There’s no question that the chunk I’ve purchased will disappear fast. I ask if their cheeses are available near where I live and am delighted to learn that my local cheese shop, Formaggio, carries them. (Max and Marla, if you’re reading this, I’ll no longer need to prevail upon you to keep me in a steady supply.)
Adam Berg, an organic vegetable farmer who founded the Stowe Farmers’ Market, recalls the original ambition: “I started it so that local family farms could network and thrive to attempt to preserve the dwindling agricultural community and particularly the family farm.” The market manager, Caitlin Elberson, says that a welcoming community feel continues to be one of the hallmarks of this market. Each Sunday features live music. Since many musicians live in the area, the entertainment is a couple notches above average. Children dance to King of the Road while their parents chow down on potstickers and smashed pork sandwiches. There’s a kid-friendly activity each week, usually a cooking or craft demonstration. This particular Sunday it’s pressing apples for cider. The market is friendly to dogs too. Berg says that the market is “still going strong with a bright future.”
Vendors at the Stowe market are knowledgeable and friendly. I’m taken by a boy about 8 years old who mans the Artesano Mead & Honey stand when his mother steps away. Making change is good math practice which he aces. He is also adept at explaining what mead is (wine made from honey). I buy a bottle and then mistakenly leave a bag filled with purchases on the makeshift counter. About 15 minutes later, the clever and kind boy tracks me down to be sure that I don’t depart the market without it.
The market’s attendance balloons by noon with people of all ages and accents, including many French Canadians. A hum of conversations in English and French blends with songs strummed on guitars. Gazing upward at the mountains, I’d like to believe that with a steady eye I might catch the moment when a leaf turns color. The vista is already a symphony of greens, yellows, and crimson. Come to this market with its upbeat mood and you too might be convinced that the hills are alive with the sound of music.
The Stowe Farmers’ Market is open Sundays rain or shine from mid-May to mid-October 10:30 am- 3 pm It’s located on Rt. 108 (Mountain Rd), 1.7 miles from intersection w/ Rt. 100. There’s parking by the Red Barn shops. The market is dog friendly,and probably goat friendly too.