Economic commission has high hopes for a destination farmers market in North Stonington

Economic commission has high hopes for a destination farmers market in North Stonington

The Westerly Sun

NORTH STONINGTON — Rather than rush to open a new farmers market this summer, North Stonington will instead take its time, do it right and aim for a fall 2019 launch, officials said.

Members of the town’s Economic Development Commission discussed the market at a workshop update Thursday.

“This is probably a year to a year-and-a-half project,” Chairman Brett Mastroianni said. “Nothing’s going to be happening this summer.”

Commission members also said they felt that if the town began this summer and the market misfired because of hasty planning, people would not return.

“To have all of our ducks in a row for next summer, we have to have all of our plans finalized by October-November of where we’re going to be,” said Dugan Tillman-Brown, a local farmer and commission member. “This year’s impossible.”

The focus of the market discussion has also included its location, with members of the EDC enthusiastic about the possibility of using the old portion of the Wheeler Middle School wing as a possible site. Members walked the site recently. The wing will be vacated once the school redesign project is completed.

An indoor location would allow the town to offer an indoor marketplace and year-round markets.

“We have six months of being the coolest indoor market out there, we establish a pattern for us that gets the loyalty to our location,” Tillman-Brown said.

It also would open up possibilities for offering such things as cooking classes and other educational opportunities, Mastroianni said.

“We’re trying to get some rough estimates on what it would cost to renovate that to what we need,” he said.

The farmers market idea kicked off in January. Farmers met with the EDC to share ideas and their experiences at other successful markets, and there was some preliminary talk about locations such as Hewitt Farm and a timetable for getting a market up and running.

The group also weighed other factors that can make or break a market, including parking, scheduling, entertainment and types of vendors.

“Our focus has been the Route 2 corridor,” Tillman-Brown said. The school site is attractive because of stoplights and existing parking spaces, he said.

“That means it doesn’t require parking attendants, and volunteer staff is minimal,” he said. “And to be indoor/outdoor? If it’s great weather, go outside.”

North Stonington is vying to establish a destination market that would attract farmers and buyers from the region but also be a quick stop-off for travelers on nearby Interstate 95.

“The possibilities are intense. It would put North Stonington on the map,” Tillman-Brown said.

The commission will explore costs and locations more and report the the Board of Selectmen in the future.

rblessing@thewesterlysun.com


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