The Durham Farmers’ Market on Mondays has been a chance for farmers to sell their food and do it in a safe way during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as it is much easier to social distance in the parking lot outside in the Sammy’s Market. With no farmers markets in May, some farmers struggled with where to sell their food to people. On Sept. 15 farmers at the Durham Farmers’ Market shared their experiences with the pandemic and their food at the market.
Charlie Reid started the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Garden Club and Dairy Club 17 years ago and usually has students work with him on his farm, Stonewall Farm to earn credit for the UNH Animal Science class ANSC 600: Field Experience. Reid said last spring was the first spring he had no help on his farm and says that most farmers have struggled amid the pandemic. Reid sells his food at the Durham Farmers’ Market on Mondays. He said, “yeah it’s been hard, but there’s not much you can do about it.”
“The first month [week] in May they didn’t allow any farmers markets, some cities have not even allowed any at all. So it’s caused everybody to scramble and you got to look for another way to sell food,” Reid said. “Farm stands have popped up so people have been doing it that way and then they let us in Portsmouth at the Little Harbour School and that’s been okay. There’s a lot of farmers and there’s a lot of customers that just refuse to come back to places where there’s lots of people,” said Reid. He now sells at a farm stand in Lee at Dog Rose Farm and also to some restaurants in Portsmouth and some health food stores. “But it hasn’t been near what it used to be,” said Reid. He says he’s been selling his food at the Durham Farmers Market for well over 30 years.
Another vendor at the market says his business has gotten better amid the pandemic. Alexander Nash and his wife Alyona Nash own the bread company The Olde Craft Bakery in Dover, NH. Nash, who moved to the US from Russia 11 years ago says he prides himself on making quality, European-style bread. During the pandemic people have gotten more into baking bread and this has helped Nash’s business, but he also says that it comes down to the organic ingredients from Canada in his bread and his advertisement of the bread to consumers.
“I believe in education, this is how we have built our business. Because unless you are able to tell people the difference between your best product and something else, how will they know,” said Nash.
Donna-Lee Woods has 120 goats at her farm, Hickory Nut Farm in Lee NH. She says she’s been doing farmers markets from Boston to Concord to North Maine and Berwick this summer and says this is her first summer at the Durham Farmers’ Market. She has a friend that does the farmstand in Durham that told her “you’ve gotta come over and do it.” She sells firm goat milk cheeses, goat milk soaps and a goat milk fudge and goat milk caramel. Woods said in regard to the current pandemic’s effects on the markets, “the temperament, the emotional aspect is much, much higher than before. People are excited for it, they look forward to it.”
A customer at the Durham Farmers’ Market, named Sticky Rice, is the lead vocalist and dancer of the band Brown Rice Family said he was excited to move to New Hampshire from New York recently. He said, “I love the farmers’ markets but I’ve been down in New York for a minute, for quite a long time I set up shop here and it’s been good. I like it here, I like the farmers market.” Rice continued on, “food is your medicine and medicine is your food, so I think the more local the food is grown the more sustainable it is for the environment and also for the body because we’re all part of the one creation you know and also supporting local businesses is also good you know spread the wealth.”
Julie Griewank, a member of the Seacoast Growers Association, talked about the farmers market during the pandemic, she said “a lot of people feel that shopping outdoors is safer than indoors, are being much more careful about what they eat, and are cooking for fun which means the fresh, local and our certified organic ingredients are really a hit, so we’ve had a really good year in that sense. In a personal sense since there’s nothing else to do we just work all the time and that works fine for us too.”