Joan O’Connor, organizer of the Tilton Winter Farmers’ Market, chats with a customer about her “Famous Composting Worms” on the final day of the 2012 season. The market, sponsored by Tilton AutoServ, offered certified farm and food products to its many customers from the Lakes Region and beyond each Saturday from January until its closing day on March 31. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
April 04, 2012TILTON — Last Saturday was a bittersweet day for the vendors and customers of the Tilton Winter Farmers' Market, as the doors opened at 10 a.m. for the final day of what most hope will simply be called their 'inaugural' winter season.
Organizer Joan O'Connor said the market was a complete success, bringing a lot of awareness and much welcomed winter income to local farmers and food producers.
"It was so steady all winter, with 1,200 to 1,600 customers every single week. Even on the days with slushy snow out there, they all came to shop," O'Connor said.
Besides the volume of business seen each week, the vendors established many new professional contacts to aid in their future endeavors.
The market was sponsored by Tilton AutoServ, which owns the building on East Main Street, and they, too, couldn't have been happier with the success the market saw over the past three months.
"This is so sad to see it end. I just love shopping here myself. It's been wonderful," said Donna Hosmer of AutoServ.
Her brother and co-owner of the car dealership agreed.
"This has been outstanding. Who knew there were so many great farms and local products available? This is something we'd like to see continue in our community. I couldn't be happier with it," Gaudet said.
Vendors were equally happy with their own success at a time of year when revenues are generally low. The Bread Peddler, Bob Chertoff of Sanbornton, said he joined the market on week two of operation, and was very pleased with the exposure and sales he found for his homemade artisan breads, thanks to O'Connor's vision of a winter market.
"It's amazing how many people have come here. Many try a taste of our breads and say 'Wow,' and then buy some. Today, everything is just speeding off our tables. We've done very well," Chertoff said.
As The Trilogy provided live Celtic folk music for a backdrop last weekend, shoppers stocked up on the goods they have come to know and love this winter. Fresh breads, veggies, coffee, homemade cheese, soups, beans and much more were being scooped up by the crowds who flocked the stands one last time.
Dan Nelson of Abbott Hill Farm, who grows, among other things, hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers, joined the Tilton Winter Farmers' Market as his first experience selling outside his farm in Wentworth. Nelson said the venture was most worthwhile.
"I've sold out every week. We had a tough year this year, and this market really bailed us out. The volume of people who have come through here has been outstanding, and I can't thank them enough," he said. "I hope (Joan) brings this back because we'll be back if she does."
Besides the many farm and food products offered this winter, O'Connor had a ready supply of information to educate customers on organic farming, safe food practices and other agricultural topics. She praised Tilton AutoServ for "taking a chance" on sponsoring the market, and hopes to bring it back in the future.
"This is such a nice building, with the right light and right location, but this is just a model of what I can do anywhere. My vendors are loyal, and I have a list of even more who would like to be a part of a farmers' market, so we'll see what the future brings. Tilton and Exit 20 are a perfect location for something like this. It's been wonderful," O'Connor said.