To Market, To Market: Enjoy Fresh from the Farm Flavor
- David Ginisi
From the first leaves of lettuce and spinach to the final bright orange pumpkin, fresh veggies and fruits are among the highlights of a visit to Johnny Appleseed Country. With its abundant farms and gardens, the region is the perfect spot to find the freshest produce – and even chat with the folks who grow it. Of course, you can visit a pick-your-own farm, or stop by a local farm stand.
With that being said, consider visiting a community farmer’s market. Just about every city and town here in North Central Massachusetts has spots where growers gather weekly to sell the fruits of their labor. You can find crisp lettuce, tasty tomatoes, or a rainbow of shiny peppers almost any day of the week by stopping by the popular markets scattered throughout the region.
No matter where you’re traveling throughout Johnny Appleseed Country, there’s sure to be a farm stand or farmer’s market nearby. For example, in Gardner, you can swing by the Monument Park on Thursdays from May to October; and in Leominster. The farm stand at Sholan Farms is open weekends from mid-July through October with their own locally-grown produce and seasonal fruits. Throughout the region, most farmers’ markets are open June through October – although Fitchburg offers an indoor market at the Fitchburg Art Museum in cooler months – and most are located right in the center of town, making locally-grown produce easy to find!
While you may be thinking about straight-from-the-garden fresh veggies for your dinner table, keep in mind that many of these markets also offer a variety of other local products, from home-made jams and jellies to freshly-baked bread, handcrafts, cut flowers and plants you can set into your own garden. Want even more home-town flavor? In addition to the wealth of fresh produce, some of these weekly markets offer entertainment while you shop! The Petersham market, held from 3 to 6 pm on Fridays, regularly features local performers on the town bandstand. Slow down! Bring a blanket and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in a picture-perfect New England Setting. A listing of markets can be found below, and more information about farmer’s markets is accessible from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources at www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown.
Here’s a snapshot of farmer’s market locations in the area:
Ashburnham – Monday afternoons at Winchester Park
Athol – Saturday mornings on the Uptown Common
Ayer – Saturday mornings at Depot Square
Barre – Saturday mornings on the Common
Clinton – Sunday mornings at the Park at Depot Square
Fitchburg – Thursday afternoons at Riverfront Park
Gardner – Thursday mornings at Monument Park
Groton – Friday afternoons at Williams Barn on Chicopee Row
Harvard – Saturday mornings at Hildreth Elementary School
Lancaster – Thursdays on the Town Common, Main Street
Leominster – Friday mornings at HealthAlliance Hospital
Lunenburg – Monday afternoons at the Ritter Building
Pepperell – Saturday mornings at the Town Field
Petersham – Friday afternoons on the Town Common
Phillipston – Saturday mornings at the Town Center
Shirley – Thursday afternoons on the Town Common
Sterling – Friday afternoons in front of the Butterick Building
Winchendon – Thursday afternoons & Saturday mornings at American legion Park
Westminster – Friday Afternoons on Academy Hill
*Information provided by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and subject to change. For up-to-date operations of these markets, visit www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown.
Not Just Produce:
In addition to farmer markets, you can head out to a local farm any day of the week to shop for fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, along with other farm products at your convenience. Red Apple Farms in Phillipston, for example, features freshly-baked cider donuts, apple pies, and local honey. Bolton Orchards at Routes 110, and 117 has local apples year-round, cider and fresh cider donuts on weekends, along with fruits, vegetables, and in-season flowers and plants.
Or visit Carlson Orchards in Harvard throughout the summer season, for tempting treats from blueberries to peaches. At Hollis Hills Farm in Fitchburg, you can find fresh meats and maple syrup made on site. Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg also stocks local milk, yogurt, butter, and eggs! And don’t forget the award-winning cheese made on the farm at Smith Country Cheese in Wichendon! It’s so Gouda!