Late-summer Saturday mornings are all about mingling with friends and neighbors, shopping for local goods, and building connections for Lisa Frackiewicz, MBA’86. She is a co-founder and market manager of the Harvard Farmers’ Market in Harvard, Mass., about 25 miles west of Boston. The market was incorporated more than seven years ago by a group of volunteer moms who dreamed of “a healthy, local food alternative for people in our community, and a way to support local farmers,” Frackiewicz explains.
Over the years, the market has grown to include about 25 vendors of various wares. “We are the largest open-air market in central Mass. right now,” says Frackiewicz.
Farmers bring such goods as seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs and dairy products, and cuts of grass-fed meat and poultry. A nearby apiary offers its honey products, and a seafood vendor sells the morning’s catch from Boston fishermen. A brand-new vendor to this year’s market will offer pickles and sauerkraut. Visitors also will find myriad other goods, such as jams and jellies, pasta, homemade baked goods, and even soup made by a cook who works for the Harvard public schools and donates his proceeds back to the school system. Frackiewicz and her fellow managers are deliberate about the vendors they allow to participate; sellers come from no more than a day’s drive away, and all goods must include some farm-based ingredients, with an emphasis on products grown or made by the seller.
Because it’s a “harvest season market,” Harvard’s operation opens near the end of summer, running this year from Saturday, August 16, through Saturday, October 25. Located each week on the grounds of Hildreth Elementary, it has evolved into much more than just food sales, Frackiewicz says. Live music from local bands fills the air and chefs perform cooking demonstrations. A program called Farm to Friend helps needy people in the community by allowing shoppers to contribute produce from their own gardens or purchase products at the market for donation. Vendors can donate their wares as well. Frackiewicz admits to tearing up while watching young children place tomatoes from their family gardens in bags meant for less-fortunate neighbors.
The market also sparked a new seed exchange program this season, which allows residents to collect and share seeds that are well-adapted to local gardens. “The Farm to Friend and Seed Library programs are very important to me,” Frackiewicz says. “They’re proof that the essence of our market can permeate our larger community beyond market Saturdays.”
About five years ago, many visitors stopped briefly at the market simply to shop, Frackiewicz says. But in this rural community, the market now has become a popular gathering spot. She relishes the atmosphere. “I love seeing the market crowded with shoppers, folks talking with the growers of their food, friends lingering on the grass with their coffee and full market bags, kids dancing to the music of the band,” she says. “It’s a blast. It’s really a fun day.”—Erin O’Donnell