Seacoast growers celebrate 35 years of farmers markets
It was one score and 15 years ago when a small group of Seacoast farmers got together to create our first farmers market.
Look at the market now.
Seacoast Growers’ Association has indeed grown from a small market in Portsmouth to a very large market in Portsmouth, Exeter, Dover, Durham and more.
“Back then, when we talked about ‘organic’ people laughed at us!” says Charlie Reid of Stone Wall Farm in Nottingham. Reid was one of the farmers present in the beginnings of the Seacoast Growers’ Association, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a pie-eating contest, video memory booth, and giving back to the community during the Portsmouth farmers market on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Davyanne Moriarty, president of the SGA, took over the family business, Moriarty’s Greenhouse in Stratham, from her father, David, who was one of the founding members of the SGA. “First, they started the Portsmouth farmers market, and then they formed the SGA as a member organization for the farmers who participated in the market,” explains Moriarty. Now the SGA provides the organizational structure for four Seacoast farmers markets: Portsmouth, Dover, Durham and Exeter. Carrying on the family business, Moriarty is a “farmers market kid” who, like many of the current market vendors, grew up in the farmers market environment.
David Moriarty, now 73, was president of the SGA for 10 years. He recalls when they first started the market.
“We wanted someplace to sell. Market Square Day had a market and we thought to do our own. Back then Dick Wallmer and Paul Carbonneau were there too. I had one small greenhouse and raised houseplants and a few spring bedding plants.”
The market started in the Parrott Avenue parking lot.
“We got kicked out and went to the bank next door,” says Moriarty. “Then after six months we went up to the old hospital where it is now.”
“Back then it was all small growers. When we first started it wasn’t even worth us going but it got better and better. We had a vendor who was with the Manchester Union —the paper — and we got a write up and even a two page story in the Boston Globe. Then it got bigger. In the beginning, John Dodge at the Agway (Hampton Falls) helped save us — he gave us money for advertising and posters. We had two good bakers, one who taught baking at Rochester High School.”
Moriarty says they also had plenty of demo classes.
“We had people threshing wheat, live cows, live horses. I used to like the demos. They made butter. We had to pay for the cream but all the money went to the farmers’ museum. They had crafts too. My wife made dried arrangements.”
He says he likes the way the market is now.
“I do like it. Some things I don’t like but I’m old, I hate to see change. I’ll have to go on that Saturday to see what they’re doing.”
Like David’s daughter, DavyAnne, Abby Wiggin of Wake Robin Farm in Stratham is a market kid. Wake Robin Farm has been a member of the SGA for 33 years. You can find her every Saturday at the Portsmouth farmers market selling produce from her family’s farm. It was Wiggin’s idea to include local charities in the day of celebration.
“The community has supported us for 35 years now and given us so much — let’s use the anniversary to give back,” she explains.
SGA fans old and new can come on Saturday, Sept. 15, to help celebrate its 35th anniversary during the Portsmouth farmers Mmarket from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the City Hall lot on Junkins Avenue.
There will be two rounds of pie eating competition, featuring pies specially made by SGA members, including Forty Five Market Street Bakery and Cafe in Somersworth. Badges will be displayed on market booths to show details on how they are giving a portion of their day’s proceeds to their favorite charity. And there will be a special market booth for people to leave video or audio-recorded messages to share stories and memories of the farmers markets over the past 35 years.
Community members are invited to join in the celebration by wearing past market T-shirts, bringing photos to share, or telling a favorite market story. More details will be revealed on the SGA Web site at www.seacoastgrowers.org as the date approaches.