By Michael S. Rohde
This past Monday at 8 a.m., I arrived at the Meriden Senior Center to be greeted by a line of seniors waiting for the doors to open to receive their senior coupons to be used at the Meriden Farmers Market.
I was there with two volunteers from the market committee, along with our newly hired bilingual staff person, to instruct seniors on how to access the free doubling dollars coupons for which they were eligible (up to $6 weekly). The market committee started this program last year and it was very successful and much appreciated by seniors.
Our market committee members have been amazed how much the doubling dollars means to seniors and families. We see lots of smiles and many “thank-yous” every Saturday at the market.
Rick Liegl, senior affairs administrator, commented: "It was excellent having people from the Meriden Farmers Market with our senior center staff and volunteers on Monday. Everyone who received the booklets learned exactly how the doubling program works, and it was explained in English and Spanish."
The doubling dollars program is also available for families on the WIC Program (women, infants, and children) who can also double their purchasing power at the market, as well.
Several local foundations generously provided over $20,000 to make this program possible — including the Meriden Foundation, Cuno Foundation, James H. Napier Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, John G. Martin Foundation, and CDGB funding from the city of Meriden.
Additionally, other funders include Eversource, Suzio Concrete Company, Local 777 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, MidState Medical Center, and Community Health Center, Inc., as well as other local businesses and individuals. This has truly been a gratifying community effort.
The grand opening “theme day” (lots of extra attractions for children) will be Saturday, July 20, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Meriden Green (at the Mill St. end near the amphitheater). We have six returning farms and one new farm, all bringing a wide array of fresh, Connecticut-grown fruits and vegetables. We have also had a 400 percent increase in interest from other vendors. The word is getting out about the Meriden Farmers Market – and it is very exciting.
Gotta Farm in Portland has been coming to Meriden for over 30 years and is one of two long-term farmers who have supplied fresh, locally-grown produce for Meriden residents. Co-owner Jackie Gotta is happy to return once again this season. I asked her how the growing season is going and what can we expect from her farm. She replied, “We got off to a slow start due to the weather, but crops are really starting to come in.” She will be bringing corn, squash, peaches, pickles, cucumbers, and callaloo (Jamaican greens).
A new farmer joined us last year and will be returning again this season — JC Farm in Durham. Alfonzo, a farm spokesman, said, “The weather has been challenging, but the spring crop is growing and the produce is plentiful.” They will be selling corn, peppers, peaches, hothouse tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, kale, onions, cabbage, and other greens. He also noted that “last season was a very busy market and we are pleased to be coming back again.”
This year, the seven farms represented will be bringing a spring harvest of sumptuous variety: freshly-picked produce ready for your dinner table and sure to please. There is nothing like the taste and smell of freshness (especially with live music in the air).
In addition to the seven farmers, there will be numerous other vendors selling tea and coffee, soaps and lotions, arts and crafts, jewelry, honey, food products, and fresh bread. Fresh breakfast sandwiches and coffee will also be available from Checkers Deli.
A new feature “Nutrition Central” will offer hands-on cooking classes by five- star chef Kashia Cave, as well as information, displays, and recipes about healthy nutrition.
Our all-volunteer committee has been hard at work putting the finishing touches on what promises to be the best Meriden Farmers Market ever. Please join us at the Meriden Green this Saturday. You’ll be glad you came!
Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of Meriden, and president of the Meriden Farmers Market.