The farmers market in Medfield is small, and tucked into the shadow of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on North Street. Tables and tents for the vendors are set up on the lawn: one table of fresh produce, flowers and food goods, one table of handmade quilts, oven mitts and hot plates, one table for a roofing and tiling business, and one table hosting a bake sale for the church.
The tables under the tent for White Barn Farm are covered in beautiful produce. Everything that’s in season right now is displayed in baskets and small containers: summer squash, zucchini, corn, garlic, hot peppers. Bouquets of bright flowers and leaves of kale are in buckets by baskets of tomatoes and potatoes on the ground, as the tables are too full to hold the bounty. The rainbow of color sends a smile across my face. The market may be small, but this produce vendor has more than enough fresh produce to fit under three tents.
But what about meats and cheeses and fish? Surprised by the small market, I inquired with one of the vendors whether there were usually more tables, or if there were more located perhaps around the side of the building or piled up in the parking lot. She wasn’t sure, this was her first week, but she did know that some of the vendors hadn’t had much luck selling their goods; not too many people frequent the Medfield market, and not too many vendors can afford to pack up their goods and bring them out for not very much foot traffic.
It’s a tough business, being a food vendor at farmers markets. I have been photographing and writing about farmers and food producers for two years, and I often hear vendors talk about the many ups and downs of farmers markets. The people clamored for markets in their hometowns, and many towns obliged. There are so many markets now, but not that many more patrons, and often, it is not financially viable for a vendor to drive to different markets everyday for not much more in sales. Has the market for farmers markets become too saturated?
That seemed to be the case as I looked around the Medfield farmers market. The produce was plentiful, the flowers were beautiful, and the woman who makes quilts by hand is lovely, but she’s thinking about no longer being a farmers market vendor next year. Slow sales, she says.
This is the final installment of the Farmers Market Series, and I encourage you to find a farmers market near you to frequent. Please support the local businesses who recognize the need in our communities for fresh food and take the time to visit our markets. They need your support so they can continue to do their work. After all, their good work is good food for all of us.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist based in Boston, MA. She created The Clean Food Club in 2016, and previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.