Visiting the 1st Weekend
UPDATE: On May 7th, Hamilton Farmers Market Co-op announced that crafters & artists will join the vendors this weekend.
With temperatures finally breaking into the 70s and May flowers making their appearance, it’s really starting to feel like spring in Montana.
Another sure sign that we can wave winter goodbye is the opening of our local Farmers Markets. With the City of Missoula’s Health Department postponing the opening of the Clark Fork Market, I decided to take a trip up the Bitterroot to opening day at Hamilton’s Farmers Market. I was not disappointed.
Set up on a block off Hwy 93 (at Bedford Street & South 3rd) with only about 40 vendors, not their normal 110, there was plenty of room for the prescribed social distancing between vendor booths and the vibe felt a little more relaxed and low-key than a fully booked mid-season market. The normal presence of live music wasn’t there yet, and the opening weekend kids’ parade was skipped for this year. All that was more than compensated for by enthusiasm to the brim among both vendors and shoppers – all very happy simply to be there.
The farmers’ produce offerings were abundant and plentiful.
While Hamilton’s opening included only the ‘essential’ vendors – soap, food, produce, in the upcoming weeks the crafters, artists, and music will return. More vendors will be added to the lineup as restrictions continue to be lifted. Live music is booked to begin on Saturday, May 16th.
Hamilton Market’s manager Terry Frost was very happy with the first weekend turnout. “People are being very respectful and social distancing. Hand sanitizing stations are set up and we’re encouraging everyone to use them often.” Frost expressed her concerns looking ahead about incoming tourists later this season, and what they may bring from out of state. The market staff has been thoroughly educated in their efforts to keep everyone safe.
Opening and closing bells (there’s really a bell!) are at 9am and 12:30pm, with early shopping for seniors and COVID-vulnerable individuals starting at 8:45am.
Vendors were optimistic about the upcoming summer months.
We spoke with Erin Belmont, a fermentologist with House of Ferments – she typically has a booth at both Hamilton Farmers Market, and at the Clark Fork Market in Missoula. Erin’s comments conveyed pretty much everyone’s general sentiments, “Shopping for fresh food and starts from local farms and producers is better for your health and our economy.”
I purchased a couple flats of starter plants from a local farmer. He stated that he is generally sells his plants at the Clark Fork Market most weekends in Missoula, but because there was room in Hamilton, fortunately they provided him space to set up. He’s not yet sure what he is going to do when Hamilton is back to capacity, since he is a new vendor there and doesn’t have the seniority of previous year vendors & locations. His original plan was to hit the ground running with enough plants for the busy and bigger Clark Fork Market.
Although the market and the crowd was smaller than normal, I left with my homemade hippy-soap from WolfHawk Mercantile, fantastic Peach Jalapeno Jelly from Aspen Grove Farm, a jar of Beet-Ginger Kombucha from House of Ferments, plenty of starter plants to keep me busy, and mostly, a smile in my heart with the ability to stamp spring as officially started with a trip to one of our local farmers markets.
The Hamilton Farmers Market operates every Saturday from early May through the last Saturday in October.
For vendor and attendee details visit http://www.hamiltonfarmersmarket.org