The sixth annual Watertown Farmers’ Market opened for the summer on June 12 with fresh produce, live music and warm sunshine at a new location: Saltonstall Park.
“I love the new location,” said Holly Hughes, who attended the farmers’ market with her husband and two children. “It’s so central to everything – the library, the playground – and it’s a fun place to come hang out with the kids.”
Every Wednesday through Oct. 9, Saltonstall Park next to Town Hall will host the Watertown Farmers’ Market. Vendors from the Greater Boston area and central Massachusetts will sell fresh produce, meat, seafood, baked goods and other products. The market runs from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. through the end of September and from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on the first two Wednesdays in October.
Debuting in 2014, the farmers’ market became part of the town’s Live Well Watertown program in 2017, held in recent years at Athenahealth on Arsenal Street. The town was grateful to Athenahealth for providing the space, Town Councilor Piccirilli told the Watertown TAB, but the location was not convenient for all residents.
Already a busy area, Saltonstall Park will give more residents, including commuters, an opportunity to visit the market, Piccirilli said.
“It’s very exciting relocating here,” he said. “It really is the spiritual center of town.”
The farmers’ market will be paired this year with the weekly Summer Concert Series, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Saltonstall Park from June 26 through Aug. 7.
“We hope people will come do their shopping and stay for concert,” Piccirilli said. “We’re hoping that will create a lot of buzz.”
Stephanie Venizelos, Watertown’s community wellness program manager, oversees the farmers’ market through Live Well Watertown. She said the farmers’ market industry is saturated in the Greater Boston area, making it challenging to bring in a variety of vendors. She said she’s excited about the variety of options available this year.
Some vendors will appear each Wednesday, and others will rotate biweekly or monthly. Future markets will include artisans selling handmade products, healthy eating information and demonstrations, and wellness activities, including yoga and tai chi, Venizelos said.
A grant from the Marshall Home Fund will fund free transportation to the market for adults 55 and over. The grant will also help fund a $15 match for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, who can receive Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) rebates for buying fruits and vegetables.
Venizelos said having the Watertown Farmers’ Market in a green space was a good fit for the community
“Overall, I’m very pleased and feel that we made a good decision by moving to Saltonstall Park,” Venizelos said after opening day. “Things came together really well, and we heard so many positive comments from shoppers, visitors and vendors, who are thrilled with the new location.”
Susan D’Amico with Lilac Hedge Farm has been a vendor with the Watertown Farmers’ Market since the beginning. She sells meat and other products every week from her nephew’s farm in Holden. D’Amico, said she was excited about the new location.
“I’m thrilled it’s a beautiful, shady spot,” she said. “We’d like to see lots of Watertown people here.”
Another longtime vendor is James Glick with SA’s Homestyle Sauce, an exotic Malaysian sweet chili sauce. Though he said it was too early to say how successful the new location would be, he liked that the park was more accessible to the center of town.
“I like the fact that they’re promoting the Summer Concert Series with the farmers’ market,” said Glick, who will sell his products monthly. “I do think this is going to get a lot more traffic when word gets out.”
One of the new vendors is Tim Carroll, who owns Farmer Tim’s Vegetables and has a farm stand on Concord Avenue in Belmont on Sundays. He will attend the Watertown Farmers’ Market every week and said he appreciated the opportunity to sell to local residents.
“I think this location is terrific,” Carroll said. “People are in a good mood, they’re buying vegetables and we have good music – what more do you want?”
Waltham’s Susan Fain is another new vendor. Owner of Quicksilver Baking Co., she will attend every other week selling rugelach, a Jewish pastry available in sweet and savory flavors based on her grandmother’s recipe.
Other new vendors include Dick’s Garden Markets from Lunenberg and Allston’s Swissbäkers.
Wednesday’s opening included face painting, games and music by singer Kali Stoddard-Imari.
Several shoppers were from East Watertown and had attended the market in previous years on Arsenal Street. Among them was Germaine Palmer, who said she visits the market to buy meat, fish, fresh produce and tamales at vendor Tex Mex Eats. Even though she has to travel further now, Palmer, who usually works on Wednesdays, said the 6:30 p.m. closing would be more convenient for her. In past years, the market closed at 6 p.m.
Another returning customer was Josh Bridger, who walked from East Watertown to Saltonstall Park with his children, ages 2 and 6. He said his family likes to attend farmers’ markets in the area throughout the summer and support local vendors. His children enjoyed the live music.
Some people attended the Watertown Farmers’ Market for the first time. Lucy Ashbahian was waiting for her son at the Watertown Boys and Girls Club when she walked over to Saltonstall Park to see what was going on. She did not know the town had a farmers’ market and appreciated the opportunity to talk with vendors about their products. She planned to return in the coming weeks.
“I want to know what’s in my food,” Ashbahian said. “This is their chance to tell us, and I like to support the local farmers.”
Another first-time visitor was Madeleine Lepere, who attended with 18-month-old Rai. She saw a notice about the farmers’ market posted in the Watertown Free Public Library and decided to stop by.
“I thought it would be a nice outing and a chance to interact with the community,” Lepere said. “And, I needed to buy vegetables.”
Thomas Michel and Sara Lewis live near Saltonstall Park and headed home from the farmers’ market carrying outdoor plants from Dick’s Market Gardens and shopping bags filled with produce.
“It’s wonderful to see the community out here,” Michel said. “It feels like a perfect thing for Watertown to do.”