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Chelmford Farmers’ Market

June 29, 2018 GMT

CHELMSFORD -- The Chelmsford Farmers’ Market returned this month for its 10th year, but with a different crew in charge and on a different day of the week.

For the first time in its history, the market, where local farmers and other vendors sell their goods, is now being held on Saturdays instead of Thursday afternoons.

That change was brought about by its new committee, composed of Johanna Shaw, Valerie Finnemeyer, Peg Marren and Claudia DeLucia.

“I’ve been surprised by how overwhelmingly positive the reaction to the change to Saturday has been,” said Shaw, 39. “I didn’t expect so many people to go out of their way to say how excited they were about that.”

If they hadn’t come forward to take it over, the Farmers’ Market may not have continued.

The former committee, headed up by Kathy O’Brien and Fran McDougall, had expressed its interest in handing over the reins earlier this year. But finding a new set of volunteers didn’t come quickly or easily.

Shaw, a graduate nutrition and dietetics student at Simmons College, said she’d always enjoyed bringing her three young sons to the market as a way to help teach them where food comes from. She said she’s been bringing them since her oldest son, Brechin, 8, was born.

“One of his first phrases when he was 2 was ‘farmers’ market,’” Shaw said.

Shaw was hesitant to spearhead the whole effort herself, so she was thrilled when Finnemeyer and the others stepped forward.

The new committee couldn’t commit to maintaining the market’s traditional Thursday 2-6:30 p.m. hours. To make it work, they had to move it to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Shaw said.

Since the market opened June 16, she said they’ve found the new schedule works well for visitors and vendors alike.

Shaw said some of the vendors from previous years can’t make it on Saturdays, but the committee has lined up new farms and sellers and is working on bringing more in for next year. Depending on the week, the market includes 10 to 17 vendors, and more have expressed interest, she said. Some favorites include Country Dreams Farm of Mason, N.H., Arrowhead Farm of Newburyport, Westford micro-winery Aaronap Cellars and Svenfish, a Concord-based seafood cooperative and delivery service.

The new committee has also instituted some changes to make the market experience fun for children and adults, including free weekly themed games and activities, live music and $10 “Market Bucks” door prizes, Shaw said. This week, kids can learn how to make kites for a small fee, she said. There are also weekly recipes at the market table that feature in-season, available items from the market vendors, Shaw said.

Shaw, who has a background in nonprofit organizations, is working on setting up a 501c3 sister organization called CHOMP, or Chelmsford Healthy Options Market Program, that would be able to accept donations and seek grants to provide healthy eating and wellness educational programming for kids. She said this likely won’t be ready until next year.

The Chelmsford Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday on the town common through Sept. 15. For more information on weekly vendors and events, visit chelmsfordfarmersmarket.org or facebook.com/chelmsfordfarmersmarket/ .

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.