ST. ALBANS — With the early summer, Vermonters everywhere are getting outside and anxiously awaiting the return of one of the Green Mountain State’s most treasured pastimes: visiting the farmers’ market.
“This year, we’re going to plan on more people coming in from out of state,” said St. Albans Town Farmers Market Manager and Parks and Rec and Facilities Manager John Montagne. “It’s going to be a very busy season.”
Last year, because of the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of the state’s farmers’ markets either closed down or, as in the case of the Northwest Farmers’ Market in St. Albans City, the agricultural vendors transitioned to curbside pick-up stations where customers could still access their groceries.
But as a part of Gov. Phil Scott’s first stage of the Vermont Forward reopening plan, bars, clubs, churches and farmers’ markets will once again be open for business, complete with live music, events and prepared foods. All businesses will have to conform to the state’s universal guidance, which includes mask wearing and social distancing.
Bright red and pink tomatoes, herbs and tinctures, and even CBD products will decorate the tables of St. Albans City and St. Albans Town once again this year, and shoppers will once again be able to access the bounty of elite-quality products made with Vermont’s finest ingredients.
“We’re still going to put up signs that say ‘please wear masks,’ but we’ll do away with our one-directional [foot traffic],” Montagne said.
Sanitization between transactions is going to be encouraged, as well as 6-foot distancing, and Northwest Farmers’ Market Manager Mark Montalban said vendors will be required to wear masks throughout the day.
Once home to anywhere between 30 and 70 vendors, Taylor Park’s Northwest Farmers’ Market will have around 35 this year, according to Montalban, who said he’s looking forward to a year that’s not a “logistical nightmare.”
“Those of us who worked on the market did 10 times what they normally do,” Montalban said of the quick transition from a traditional model to a COVID-friendly one. “But we came through it ... and we did amazingly well.”
As contact with surfaces was all but forbidden before vaccines became available, the Northwest Farmers’ Market shrunk to a mere 16 vendors last year, while the St. Albans Town Farmers’ Market in St. Albans Bay Park housed 15, Montagne said.
“This year, we’ll have closer to 19,” Montagne said. “We’re looking for food vendors. We have one ... Mediterranean Mix ... she always sells out every time.”
The Northwest Farmers’ Market isn’t limiting vendors, and like the St. Albans Town Farmers’ Market will be featuring live music acts to serenade its shoppers.
“I booked all the bands before I knew I could do it,” said Montagne, who secured 17 days of different local acts. “It was worth it ... people are going to want to get out.”
In addition to their markets, the St. Albans Bay Park will be featuring its annual car and motorcycle show, Bay Day on July 3, the Great Race triathlon and August’s Brewfest, featuring 14th Star Brewery, Mill River Brewery, Maquam Winery, First Republic, Weird Window Brewing, Kraemer and Kin and more.
And new this year will be the Bay Park’s Saturday Night Live, featuring Phil Abair and Bonfire Vermont.
“I like to advertise it and say ‘the bay has never sounded so good,’” Montagne said.
Montagne said he might even bring his own barbecue to the market, as his friends have long been requesting his revered cherrywood smoked brisket and blueberry-watermelon barbecue sauce.
The St. Albans Town Farmers’ Market will begin on May 27 and will operate every Thursday in the St. Albans Bay Park from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the Northwest Farmers’ Market begins on May 15, operating every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.