WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Six years after a steering committee took control of the Williamstown Farmers Market, the seasonal venue is going stronger than ever.
On Saturday morning, nearly 30 vendors offered everything from freshly picked apples to fresh-baked treats to hand-crafted wooden bowls.
The near-capacity crowd of vendors attracted community members, Williams College students and tourists to the municipal lot at the bottom Spring Street — not to park but to partake in the region's bounty.
"Since 2012, the number of vendors has at least doubled," steering committee member Anne Hogeland said. "Our mission is to respond to the community's desire for diverse, local food offerings in a place that's a vibrant destination on Saturdays."
Saturday mornings from May through October are about local produce in Williamstown's downtown.
And the market's growth reflects the diversity and growth of what area farms have to offer.
The Williamstown Farmers Market welcomed six new vendors this year, including three — Williamstown's Bigfoot Farm; Stephentown, N.Y.'s, Grateful Greens; and local food truck Cornucopia — that are in their first year of operation.
Grateful Greens is a "chemical-free microgreens" operation. Bigfoot, which is operated by a former food truck operator, grows everything from artichokes to sweet potatoes in South Williamstown. Cornucopia offers unique farm-to-table fare for breakfast, brunch or lunch, depending on when visitors come to the market, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"Cornucopia sources from a lot of our vendors," Hogeland said. "Today they're serving meat from East Mountain Farm and fruit from Windswept Farm and others. They note that on their menu.
"And all those relationships developed over the course of the season here at the farmers market, which is exciting."
Most of the vendors — about three-quarters — are signed up for the full season at the market, Hogeland said. Some came on during the season after their specific crops started to come in.
Of course, some of the purveyors are not so time-sensitive. In addition to fresh vegetables from Peace Valley Farm, which has been a staple at the market since it opened in 1981, visitors can pick up honey from Florida's Busy Bee, maple products from Williamstown's Sweet Brook Farm or even non-food items like woolen goods from Heritage Artisans or mugs and bowls from Hogeland's own Berkshire Mountain Pottery.
"We're about as full as we want to be," said Leslie Reed Evans, another member of the market's steering committee. "But there are some niches we'd like to fill. For example, we don't have a bread baker. We have some people selling baked goods but not locally baked bread.
"The non-food items all have a connection to the area. The wood used is locally sourced or the fiber arts have an agricultural connection. We don't want to be a craft market. We want to be a farmers market. But we want to have a balance."
The organizers also want to create a weekly event to keep visitors coming back.
Through a grant from the Fund for Williamstown, the market has acquired picnic tables with umbrellas for patrons to stop and dine or just socialize and enjoy the live music at the market each week.
That music this past Saturday included a two-hour concert by Rosin and Beaux, a monthly feature at the venue, and the Williamstown Farmers market debut of Cafe Budapest.
"The music creates a nice atmosphere," Hogeland said. "It's grown over the years. We had two Williamstown Theatre Festival performances at the market this summer: one by their Community Works company and one by their apprentices."
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