MERIDEN — Ed Peczynski, treasurer of the Meriden Farmers Market, believes that Saturday morning’s opening was the best attended in its nine year history.
“A few new people come every year and they continue to come, so it grows,” he said.
The Farmers Market will take place on the Meriden Green off of Mill Street every Saturday through October 19 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Mike Rohde, president of the farmers market, said they made a few changes this year as a result of community feedback. In addition to increasing the numbers of farmers represented, thus increasing the diversity of offerings, they tweaked pricing to make sure that vegetables were cheaper than found at local supermarkets.
They also changed the location of the farmers market to be off of Mill Street, closer to more parking. Finally, in response to senior citizens’ concern that walking on the Green’s uneven lawns can be difficult, they placed all of the booths off of concrete footpaths.
“We really listen,” Rohde said.
As part of the market’s effort to expand the scope of its offerings, educational materials and cooking demonstrations are now being offered.
Elizabeth Misunas and April Flores, both nutrition educators with the University of Saint Joseph’s SNAP - Ed program, were on hand to offer free information about healthy habits.
“There is a generalized resistance, that we are going to be the food police but it’s really not that that,” Misunas said. “We are trying to find little changes that can sustain over time.”
For example, whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet, but not everyone likes them. If they can incorporate them in cereal or oatmeal, rather than in loaves of bread, that can be a way to get the necessarily nutritional value, Misunas said.
Another simple way to improve health is to make sure to do 30 minutes of activity a day. People commonly interpret this as going to the gym, Flores said, but it could be things as simple as taking the stairs or parking further away from your intended destination.
“All of these are things that people do that they don’t realize are helping them,” Flores said.
Just across the way Kaisha Cave, chef at My City Kitchen, prepared to offer food demonstrations. When she arrived that morning at the farmers market, she did her own bit of shopping.
“I go to each of the vendors and I see what fruits and vegetables are available,” Cave said.
She picked up some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and more, and planned to make a healthy stir fry. Cave hears one consistent refrain when she does her cooking demonstrations around the city:
“They don’t know that they can make (certain recipes) with vegetables. Or, they don’t know what a particular vegetable is,” she said.
Phillip Dylewski, a dietitian, and Rebecca Ceragioli, a cafeteria worker, distributed free lunches as part of Meriden Food and Nutrition program.
Dylewski said that the number of free meals given out through the summer lunch program increased 15 percent over the past year and they expect to see the same level of increase over the next year, thanks to more community familiarity.
The department expects to distribute about 800 to 1000 meals a week over the course of the summer, Dylewski said.
“They say hunger doesn’t take a break,” he said.
Dennis and Kristen Richardson of Fern’s Meadow in Meriden, were participating in the market for the first time. They offered lovely smelling soaps made of goat’s milk, and some honey from their hives in addition to a nice array of vegetables.
“We love our goats,” Dennis said.
Having grown up in the Ozarks, Dennis Richardson had experience with providing his own food. He and Kristen purchased their six-acre farm in 2016 and decided to homestead. They put up about 400 quarts of vegetables a year, producing about half of what they eat. They make their own dairy products from a small squadron of goats. Any excess vegetables they plan to sell at the farmers market.
“I wouldn’t say what we are doing is farming. It’s a large garden,” he said. “It is all consuming. If you are committed to that lifestyle and that’s what you enjoy, it is wonderful.”
Selling their goods at the farmers market gives them an opportunity to share their lifestyle with people.
“More and more people are becoming interested in sustainability,” Richardson said. “Everything we do is to educate people about where their food comes from.”