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That's So Vermont: Statehouse Market Highlights Local Food

John Dillon
The lawn in front of the Statehouse in Montpelier hosted a pilot midweek farmers market.

The green expanse in front of the Statehouse in Montpelier could be considered Vermont's front yard — a gathering place for everything from political protests to ultimate Frisbee contests.

The broad lawn was transformed Tuesday into an open air market with fresh food, handmade furniture and farm products for sale.

Stan Cisz, a summer visitor from Pennsylvania, says it's a fitting spot for a celebration of local food.

"I think this is great. I mean, look this is a real farmers market. It's not arts and crafts. This is what Vermont is touting itself as," he says.

"Look at the background. That's the state capitol. Where else are you going to have a farmers market at the state capitol?"

Cisz says the market offers a chance for people to learn where the food is raised. It's also an opportunity for farmers to do some education of their own.

Beth Whiting, from Maple Wind farm in Huntington, was telling a customer about the virtues of her farm's bug-eating chickens and their tasty eggs.

"Look at the background. That's the state capitol. Where else are you going to have a farmers market at the state capitol?" - Stan Cisz, visitor from Pennsylvania

"They're pasture-raised. They're moved to fresh grass twice a week," Whiting says.

"A lot of farms end up raising their chickens and really never move them even though they're outside. And what that does is a lot of degradation to the soil and the land. (But) chickens are great cleansers. So we like to have them follow behind our cows, because they go through the pastures and find the bugs and parasites."

Credit John Dillon / VPR
Beth Whiting sells eggs from Maple Wind farm in Huntington at the farmers market outside the Statehouse.

Whiting usually works weekends at the Burlington farmers market. She's here today for a little outreach.

"It's wonderful to just be on the Statehouse lawn, and see some new faces, and introduce Maple Wind Farm to some other folks since we're kind of up in the Chittenden County area," she says.

Abby Willard, the local foods administrator with the Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, says the Montpelier market was planned to coincide with open farm week, in which more than 100 farms around the state open their doors to visitors. And it's an experiment of sorts: to see if the capital city can support another weekly market in addition to the one held on Saturday, and to see if it's a good way to promote local food in other cities and towns around the state.

Credit John Dillon / VPR
Local foods administrator Abby Willard surveys the midweek farmers market held at the Statehouse.

"We could think about Burlington, or Rutland, or Brattleboro — all communities that have a good population of state employees and really robust Saturday markets but not a midweek market," she says.

The lunchtime crowd swells as people fill bags and baskets with produce and berries. Standing near the Statehouse steps, Stan Cisz was still soaking in the scene.

"I just look at the people over here and feel a lot of pride in their faces — what they're doing, where they're located, what they're doing for their lives," he says.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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