EASTHAM — For several years, the outer reaches of Cape Cod have been home to weekly farmers markets, where a wide variety of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, other edibles, and even crafts, are available — along with the chance for shoppers to meet local farmers and merchants. Every town from Harwich to Provincetown has one.
Every town, that is, except Eastham.
“I always used to think it was funny that Eastham was the one town without a farmers market, yet Eastham was known for growing turnips,” said Jamie Rivers, chair of the Eastham Select Board. “It was like, ‘Why don’t we have a market? That’s what we’re known for.’ ”
That may soon change, if Eastham residents Sadie Hill and Monica Allen have anything to say about it.
Hill has been on a quest to bring a farmers market to Eastham for three years. The director of the Brewster Historical Society Farmers Market, Hill says that she’s been in regular contact with the Eastham Board of Health to make it a reality. “Yes, they’re willing to move forward, and yes, they’d like to have a plan in place before March,” she reported.
Unaware of Hill’s intentions, Allen, a North Eastham resident and Orleans-based real estate broker who regularly makes the 20-minute trip to Truro for her farmers market shopping, posted this on the Eastham Community Space Facebook page on Aug. 3: “Just asking why we don’t have a true Farmers Market here — more community coming together. It’s really nice to see in other towns.”
Hill, a mother of four, former goat owner, and cheesemaker who eyed Eastham even before taking over in Brewster, was overjoyed. “Yay! Somebody else!” was her reaction. “I think that the more someone is willing to put in the time and effort for free, and take on the task to start one, it becomes harder for the town to say no.”
Rivers, for one, loves the idea.
“I’ve talked to people over the years about it, throwing it out and seeing what people think,” she said. “I go to the Orleans farmers market and I talk to some of the people there. The vendors usually do multiple venues. They were worried, wondering if something like this could carry. Do we need one in every town? A few years ago, I wasn’t sure. Now, you’re seeing interest in it expanding, and interest in local food, knowing where your food comes from. I think the demand is increasing.”
Hill said she’s received positive feedback from the rest of the select board and the planning board. But before the proposal lands in front of the Eastham Select Board for approval, it needs to go through Jane Crowley at the health dept. According to Crowley, “Sadie was in touch and needs to submit a proposal. We would be happy to have preliminary discussion in advance.”
“I’m going to try to have a preliminary plan sent over there in the next month or so,” Hill said. “Hopefully, by March, everything can be all said and done.”
There’s still a long way to go. No formal meetings have taken place yet, Hill said. But she has taken one step forward, seeking a home for the market, and appears to have found a willing partner in the Eastham Historical Society. Hill said that EHS President Eileen Seaboldt was agreeable to the idea of having the market on the grounds of the historical society’s 1869 Schoolhouse Museum, which has water hookups and portable restroom facilities. In Brewster, Hill said, market crowds range in size from 1,200 during a three-hour Saturday market in summer, to between 400 and 600 during the shoulder seasons.
There are other concerns besides space. Coordinating volunteers can be a monumental task in itself, as anyone who’s been involved in nonprofits and community organizations can attest.
“Some are just volunteers to pick things up and put things down and others have roles that are more specific, such as web designer, treasurer, volunteer coordinator, and sponsor solicitor,” Hill said of her Brewster team.
As for competing with other farmers markets, Hill would prefer that Eastham had a day of the week all to itself. “I think Eastham will be one of those markets that needs to be timed correctly,” she said.
Allen sees the Brewster market as an example for Eastham to follow. “We’d like to duplicate what Sadie did,” she said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but to be successful like she’s been.”
The farmers market experience has been enlightening to Allen. Shopping at the one in Truro, she said, taught her a lot about gardening and soil, but also about community coming together. “It’s not just for the food, it’s for the community, and people can learn from each other,” she said.
“This is such a good example of someone in the community who sees something that could really benefit everyone, and taking action,” Rivers said. “To let Sadie be a role model for other people and see how it’s done. If you see something and you want to make it happen, you need to take those steps to make it happen, you need to meet with the board of health, and speak with your elected officials to see what the feel is. It can happen.”