WILLIAMSTOWN -- A total of 1,548 people visited Williams College's Towne Field House on Sunday for an event one organizer called "the most delicious way to support our local economy."
For four hours, Berkshire Grown's Holiday Farmers Market turned the sports complex into the county's premiere stop for local and regional produce.
More than 30 vendors from three states took part, arranging displays of greens, root crops, colorful gourds, cheeses, eggs, meats, poultry, bread, pies and other baked goods, pickles, jams, honey, maple syrup, ciders and more.
The market featured live music and a children's play area for the first time this year, which allowed parents to shop more freely while children were supervised by volunteers.
Many participating local farmers reported strong sales as the market wound down Sunday afternoon, filling out comment cards that reflected sentiments like "we didn't bring enough produce."
Barbara Zheutlin, director of Berkshire Grown, delighted by such feedback, noted a roughly 200-person increase in traffic over last year.
"We had additional vendors and more people coming to buy," Zheutlin said. "The holiday market is growing."
In an economy that's still trying to return to strength, some took Sunday's turnout as a positive sign.
Vendors like John Primmer, an organic vegetable and egg farmer with Wildstone Farm in Pownal, Vt., underscored the importance of such events in keeping business healthy.
"Independent farmers can only do so much themselves," Primmer said. "These farmers markets really have made all the difference in the world. They've kept us in business."
Primmer and his wife, Joy, take part in roughly 60 farmers markets each year, and Sunday, they rejoined the Williamstown market for the first time in three years.
Primmer was marketing fresh stores of kale, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, squashes, broccoli and more.
Marnie MacLean, of Thompson-Finch Farm in Ancram, N.Y., had traveled more than an hour to take part in the market.
"I've been farming for 35 years, and I think [farmers markets] will continue to pick up," she said. "People want to shop at a place where the food is local before the holidays."
Berkshire Grown promotes local and regional farms and vendors, with over 250 members that hail from Massachusetts, Vermont and New York.
Joining Sunday's crowd were representatives of a number of different causes, including environmental, educational and social.
Gordon Clark, Network Capacity Coordinator of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, was among them. Clark reported an industrious year for community gardens in Williamstown and Pittsfield, which helped grow and deliver more than 6,000 pounds of organic vegetables to local meal sites this year and is expected to top that number in the coming years. The group is looking into preserving part of next year's crop, Clark said.
Berkshire Grown's holiday farmers market will again occupy the Towne Field House on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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