By Kristin Cleveland
Connecting with community, supporting local agriculture and small businesses, and discovering new foods and recipes — that’s what motivates the Friends of the Market. The Friends organization was created in 2011 to support vendors and customers of the Saratoga Farmers’ Market and to help educate the larger community about the benefits of locally sourced food.
Alexandra Morgan, one of the original Friends, recalls “My favorite memory is of helping a vendor who was overwhelmed with customers. That situation led to a valued friendship. To be able to step into a situation and help out is very gratifying.”
Chris Toole, another long-time Friend, encourages others to volunteer for this “ambassador-like” position, particularly if they love meeting and helping people. She explains, “the joking and camaraderie of the vendors is a joy. I’ve made wonderful friends in all of the people here. They make me laugh and I’m always learning things.”
Often these lessons are about new foods to try. Toole describes, “The best new food I ever heard about here, from Pura Vida Fisheries, was for Blowfish Tails. I sautéed them in butter and garlic and they were marvelous!” Since Toole found that Blowfish Tails are only available seasonally, she now asks the Pura Vida folks for other recommendations depending on the season. Another Friend, Sally Willse, also loves a recipe she learned from a market vendor, The Vermont Spätzle Company, which combines their gluten-free spätzle with local Brussels sprouts, bacon and maple syrup.
Friends help out in various ways depending on their talents and interests. Tasks include greeting customers and answering questions, helping people transport purchases to their cars, covering vendor stalls while the farmers and chefs take breaks, taking photos for use in social media and educational presentations, and teaching people of all ages about cooking and local food. Willse describes her favorite market experiences, “The times I help with kids’ activities. Once the kids were drawing vegetables at the market; it was fun to see and hear their perspectives about their favorite foods.”
Darlene McGraw sums up her reason for becoming a Friend this way: “I volunteer because I love to support local small businesses. I celebrate ‘Small Business Saturday’ every week!”
To learn about joining the Friends of the Market, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or come to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, currently at its winter home in the Lincoln Baths on Saturdays, 9 am – 1 pm.