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Williamstown Farmers Market Returns Saturday Morning
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:46AM / Thursday, May 20, 2021
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The Williamstown Farmers Market opens Saturday at the bottom of Spring Street.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It is a sign of summer, a sign of normalcy and a sign of hope.
 
But Saturday's return of the Williamstown Farmers Market is not a sign that organizers are reacting to Monday's announcement that the commonwealth's economy is reopening.
 
"I went back and checked my emails to see when we made a decision to open an in-person market for this season," Anne Hogeland said on Wednesday. "And it was mid-February.
 
"That is when we announced to the community and, most importantly, the vendors at that point, that we would be opening and it would be this weekend."
 
The market returns Saturday at 9 a.m. in the parking lot at the bottom of Spring Street and will be open for business every Saturday from 9 to 1 p.m. through Oct. 16.
 
There is one quirk on the market's schedule, but it has nothing to do with COVID-19, which last year forced it to go virtual.
 
"This is our traditional opening date, the weekend before Memorial Day," said Hogeland, who chairs the board of the farmers' market. "If we start this week, by the calendar, there are usually 22 weeks to take us to Indigenous Peoples Day weekend. This year, there are only 21 weeks, so what is sometimes an optional 23rd week [Oct. 16] will be our 22nd week this year.
 
"We just decided to go ahead and say we will definitely go to that last weekend after the October holiday weekend."
 
After a year of focusing on fresh produce and essentials ordered online and picked up on Saturdays, the Williamstown Farmers Market is returning to its roots this year with vendors offering arts and crafts and prepared foods — including a new hot dog cart — to go along with the fresh fruits and vegetables produced by farmers from around the region.
 
"We have really robust, varied offerings from a wonderful selection of vendors," Hogeland said. "We have a lot of flowers this year, including a new Williamstown farm that will offer a new variety of annuals."
 
Some of those floral vendors are on schedule to join the market in June because of the seasonality of their product, but Hogeland said she has about 20 vendors ready to go on Saturday for opening day.
 
Masks and physical distancing will be required at the market until further notice, and vendors will have hand-sanitizing stations in their booths. Hogeland said the board is working closely with Health Inspector Jeff Kennedy, and will likely will consider alterations to its protocol as the season progresses.
 
"For now, the message is, for opening day, these are our protocols," Hogeland said.
 
Social distancing is somewhat easier to accomplish at the Williamstown Farmers Market, which, unlike others, tends not to pack vendors too closely together, Hogeland said. But this year, organizers are taking the extra step of making sure there is at least one lined vehicle space between each stall to make sure that lines of customers do not cross.
 
Hogeland said she did not think the added precaution will take up more of the blacktop in the municipal parking lot, but she won't know for sure until after setup on Saturday morning.
 
The market is not reviving the online ordering system it put in place last year, instead focusing on the in-person market that has thrived since 1981. But the market is committed to supporting and publicizing any online ordering systems that individual vendors have put in place, Hogeland said.
 
One innovation that has carried over from last year is the Community Essential Initiative, which purchases produce from market vendors to donate to local food pantries. Hogeland said the Williamstown Farmers Market has received grants from Berkshire Health Systems, the United Way and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to support that program, which serves the market's mission of helping local farmers while providing fresh food to those in need.
 
In general, the market that opens Saturday will look very similar to the ones residents and visitors enjoyed in the "before times," complete with picnic tables at which to enjoy the prepared foods offered by vendors.
 
One thing the market won't have — at least in week one — is live music, which the current pandemic guidelines don't allow.
 
"Moving forward, it's something we'll discuss, and if we can do it safely, it's something we'd like to add back," Hogeland said. "Our goal is to get through opening day, get through the first couple of markets, do what we can to get the market underway and then, to the extent we can add safely and effectively, that's great."
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