It was a beautiful, sunny day, more autumn-like than a day in mid-August. We planned to stop by the Farmer’s Market for a minute, but ended up staying for hours. It was time well spent as we witnessed community building first hand. Who knew such a simple concept was a microcosm of society at its finest?
My husband Mark is the chef at a local restaurant that participates in a weekly farmer’s market put on by the New London’s Field of Greens Markets. We arrived early to set up the booth, and as we walked onto the site, I was struck by the sense of community playing out in front of me. People were setting up tents and laying their wares on tables, carrying on conversations as they did so.
“Welcome back. Nice to see you.”
“I visited your restaurant last week. It was amazing.”
“Those cookies are to die for!”
As we approached our assigned spot, Dan Stevens and the other musicians in the place one tent over were setting up. Dan’s blues melodies serenaded the burgeoning crowd, inviting people in.
The woman who sponsored the band stopped what she was doing to come help us as a strong breeze toppled our signs.
“You need tape.” Right away, she got to work, securing our signs to tent posts. Her small dog followed her everywhere. She laughed as she explained that the dog was friendly and just enjoyed being part of the day.
As we readied our station, a man and his son stopped by. He welcomed us to New London and told us he was pleased a German restaurant opened in town. We spoke for a while, and he wished us much luck, promising to stop back for food once we were ready.
Even before the market officially opened, small groups of people began streaming in. One of the first visitors to our booth was a very large man with a very little dog. He held the adorable chihuahua mix in his arms while he waited for his German bratwurst. We chatted about his puppy as my husband prepared his meal. There was a true warmth there, as if we were old friends. He got his sandwich and was on his way.
We continued preparing as vendors across the picturesque park did the same. Across the square, an older gentleman sat beneath a sign that advertised homemade cookies. My husband raved about these the week before and I was anxious to try to try them. We spoke with him, and he also spoke words of encouragement for the restaurant. We selected two varieties of cookies, and my husband was right. They were absolutely delicious.
Next to him, a woman set up bundles of yarn to sell. Mark explained that she was there every week, and that she made the yarn. My mother would be in heaven if she saw the baskets filled with soft, white yarn.
Next to that, there was a tent with a display of honey, jams, and preserves. Mark told me the tent belonged to the man who ran the market. We stopped to speak to him. As soon as my husband introduced us, Art offered me a taste of his local honey. I didn’t think I liked honey, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I took a taste. I was instantly converted to a honey lover. The sweet liquid was so delicate without being overpowering. We immediately purchased a bottle, along with a few jars of jams.
Art explained how part of the intent of the market was to build community. There’s an older video I found in which he goes into further detail about his vision for the weekly event. You can find it here. It is obvious this is his passion. He mentioned that the market was the only place some people could get fresh fruits and vegetables in the area because part of the market’s mission is to accept SNAP cards and WIC vouchers.
A display of colorful vegetables covered the table next to the jams and honey. It looked like a still life painting. A few young men worked the table, chatting with customers. One of the men joined us back at our booth, looking forward to a hot sandwich. He told us the story about meeting Mark a few weeks earlier. He was so excited to tell his dad about the food. Apparently, his dad is a huge fan of German food. His dad appeared as his son was telling me the story.
“It’s real German food. I had my doubts, but when I tried it, I called by buddies in New York to tell them about it. We’ll all be visiting the restaurant.”
I spoke with Kyle Hurst, owner of the Seehund German Pub, about why he decided to participate in the farmer’s market. He explained that it was not about the money, but rather an opportunity to make great connections. He described how the food they served provided a great visual, and encouraged people to come to the restaurant. He also mentioned that they already benefitted from the people they’ve met at the market. Squash blossoms they purchased there became a delectable special at the restaurant and was a huge hit.
During a lull in customers, Mark and I walked over to a man selling Italian Ice. I grew up eating this delicious treat, but the coconut infused ice was by far the best I’ve ever had. The man selling the ice was friendly and came by later as I chatted with Kyle. The three of us had a lengthy discussion about the treatment of animals in zoos and aquariums. (Kyle had previously been a marine biologist at Mystic Aquarium.) Again, it was a gathering of strangers engaged in friendly conversation.
One of the highlights of the day was a man who makes balloon animals. He does this for free just to entertain the kids, preferring only to accept tips. This man excelled in his talent, not only in the creations he made, but also in the way he engaged the children. There were many happy little kids running through the park, balloon dragons and swords in hand.
Throughout the day I watched as old friends met, and new people introduced themselves to each other. Everyone had a story to tell, all the while sampling the offerings and laughing. It was a perfect day filled with nothing but happiness.
I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s market. If you are in the New London, Connecticut area, you can find more information on the market’s Facebook page.