A small group of bundled-up toddlers run around while their parents lean over stands to see what vendors have to offer. They see the tables of veggies, fruits, meats, baked goods and crafts that line the walls of Amherst Middle School cafeteria for the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market.
“I wish we could rename it a community market. Everyone brings in something different,” said Jennifer Therrien, vender of Delights of the Earth.
The company was started in 2001 by a friend of Therrien’s and she took it over and revamped it last year when she added new products. She makes and sells her own organic soap, lotion bars, salves, bath salts and foaming and natural laundry detergent.
It is Therrien’s first year at the Winter Farmers’ Market. She comes every Saturday.
“The advantage of the farmers’ market is that it’s nice to see what people like and what they don’t like,” said Therrien.
After the holidays she says her business slows down, so she uses the market as a way to interact directly with her customers.
Therrien has two kitchens in her home, one for personal cooking, and the other for making her company’s products. The products contain a chemical called lye, a common ingredient in soap that can harm one’s health in its unprocessed form, which is the reason why she keeps a separate kitchen.
People come to the market for all different reasons. Some are there strictly to shop, but many come for entertainment and the sense of community. But as 80 percent of the products at the market come from local farms, the market manager Tamsin Flanders says that the current title still fits.
Elsie Adoboe, a Massachusetts native, has a station there. She has been baking oatmeal cookies for 10 years, but three years ago she turned it into a business, Aunty Elsie’s Oatmeal Crisps. The cookies have made her one of the market’s favorites.
She’s always loved oatmeal cookies, but disliked the chunkiness, so she decided to bake them her own way as “crisps.” The cookie is flat, thin, breaks nicely and is easier to bite into because of the lack of chunk.
“They are the most delicate cookies in the world,” said Adoboe.
Her nieces and nephews were the first tasters when she started making her oatmeal crisps cookies. Her cookie baking skills eventually turned into a full-time job.
Her cookies come in three different flavors: ginger, plain and oatmeal. She’s currently working on the fourth flavor, chocolate, for the summer. Adoboe’s cookies are also sold at Portabella Fine Foods, State Street Fruit Store, Coopers Corner, Tailgate Picnic and Watroba’s Market.
Local Amherst café, The Black Sheep, also runs a station every Saturday at the market.
“It’s good marketing for The Black Sheep. It advertises for the business, supports local economy and small businesses,” said Frances Towle, a friend of the owner.
At The Black Sheep stand, fresh pastries, bread, cookies, brownies and coffee tempt customers to come take a bite or sip.
Dori Goldman, the owner of The Backyard Bakery, specializes in making bread made of locally grown wheat and rye, which she mills herself. Goldman makes four types of bread: challah, Danish rye, honey wheat and flax sesame loaves.
Every Saturday during the winter, she comes to the farmers’ market, and in the summer she can be found at Kendrick Park.
Flanders, the market manager, said that she tries to attract unique and diverse vendors although some products sold at the market may overlap.
“Diversity of products is important,” says Flanders, who is managing the market for the first time this year.
Vendors pay $20 to $35 depending on the size of their stand. According to Flanders, other markets charge up to $80.
The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until March 2.
Sarah Rosemond can be reached at email@example.com.