By Eileen Weber
Farmers markets have been cropping up in communities across the nation. Locally, Westport, New Canaan, Darien, and New Haven have been home to thriving markets that make other towns salivate. Years ago, Fairfield had a market located in the Brick Walk. But unfortunately, that one fizzled. Now, finally, residents have a new Fairfield Downtown Farmers Market right in the center of town.
That’s all thanks to Bill and Maureen Auer, owners of the Firehouse Deli and Centro Ristorante which flank the Sherman Green where the farmers market they manage is held each Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. until mid-September. Bill says it’s the perfect place to host a “little French market.”
The Fairfield Downtown Farmers Market boasted more than a dozen vendors on Father’s Day, their opening day. On that perfect summer day, without a cloud in the sky, the Sherman Green was abuzz with friends and neighbors chatting it up with the farmers and each other as they shopped and listened to live music from the Broadway Bootcamp kids. The Sherman Green was transformed into exactly what Auer had wanted – a marketplace with a great community vibe.
But more than camaraderie can be found at the market. A lot of time and effort was invested in researching the vendors. The Auers scoured local markets, online, and by word-of-mouth to find authentic businesses that were the best fit for Fairfield. They wanted only those people who actually cultivate their product, not just sell it.
“It was eye-opening, actually,” said Bill, describing how they filtered the vendors. “We wanted people who were authentic. But who knew people would buy honey from China and then put their own label on it?”
These vendors are the real deal. Take Oui Charcuterie, for example. Owner Matt Browning raises heritage hogs on barley (procured from the spent grains from New England Brewing Company), acorns and walnuts, fruit, grass, and other plants. No nitrates. No GMOs. Browning got in to the business when his then four-year-old son asked him to make bacon. (“I mean real bacon, Dad. Not from a package!”) It got him started down the path of being a hog farmer and salami maker.
Sebastian Interlandi of Creative Shepherd Farm started out teaching, then ditched it all for a more bucolic lifestyle. Now, he makes some pretty tasty cheese and grows certified organic produce. His lightly pasteurized and unhomogenized organic milk is sold in French glass jars, a rare and delicious find. Based in upstate New York, Interlandi has no problem making the trip to Fairfield. Growing up in Black Rock, he was very familiar with the market’s environs. He’s also a vendor at the Black Rock Farmers Market on Saturdays, so popping by Fairfield on Sundays is a no brainer.
“It was a great market for me and I’m excited to be offering our organic and delicious foods here all summer,” he said of Sunday’s inaugural event. “How could it not be busy and successful with that location?”
Location was a key factor for Rich Cook of The Local Catch from Rhode Island. Fairfield’s market is nestled in an attractive grassy area next to a municipal parking lot with a nearby parking garage. “I think the whole thing came along great. The park there is a natural,” said Cook. “With farmers markets, the parking is always an issue. But they’ve got more than they need!”
With such a good turnout this past Sunday, there were more than a few vendors who were close to running out of their merchandise. Hot Chicks sells local fresh eggs, but by mid-day, they were ready to pack it in with almost nothing left to sell. Commenting on the volume of foot traffic, they mused about holding back at the Black Rock farmers market to have enough for this one next week. LuLu’s Southern Pies commiserated with that sentiment. With barely a tart to their name, they’ll be back next weekend with twice the number of pies they brought this time.
For award-winning, gluten-free baked goods, you need to look no further than Tasty Good Eats. The empanadas, for instance, are made from plantain dough instead of flour. Owner Karina De Almeida is pretty picky about what she puts in those empanadas, too. Her mushroom recipe uses Pine Lake Mushrooms from Ivoryton and her chicken dishes use poultry from Ox Hollow Farm. All her pastries and baked goods have no artificial sweeteners or other processed foods.
And then there’s Whole G Bakery. They make the kind of bread I haven’t seen since the last time I strolled through Bavaria: hearty grains, fruits, and nuts twisted into soft pretzels and other boules with funny little names like bauernbrot and vollkornbrot. Wheat, rye, or sourdough, the whole grain flour is all organic.
For just a quick sweet treat, several market-goers could be seen noshing on items purchased from Fairfield’s own Riverside Baking Company. With a French flair, these pastries are made from seasonal, local ingredients.
Baked goods weren’t the only hot spots at the market. There were at least four different booths to pick up fresh greens. Stop by any one of them: Nature View Farm from Bridgewater, Simpaug Farm based in Ridgefield, or George Hall Farm from Simsbury. Pick up some microgreens and edible flowers from Hamden’s Two Guys from Woodbridge to round our your vegetable selections. When you have that many booths devoted to produce, you might think the market was a little over-saturated. Not so, say these farms.
“I don’t even feel like it’s a competition,” said Megan Robertson of Simpaug Farms. “There are plenty of people in Connecticut that want to eat locally grown produce.”
Locally grown produce pickled and jarred can be found at Westport’s Jane’s Good Food. And for those popping by with man’s best friend in tow, Molly & Murphy makes dog and horse biscuits with none of those pesky artificial flavors, additives, colors or dyes—and no animal by-products.
Ready to try some duck legs, quail, or rabbit? MarWin Farm has got it all. A non-GMO operation with products that are also pesticide and herbicide free, owner Kenny Dahill calls his food “better than organic” and he’ll teach you how to prepare it all.
This Sunday market is an inviting place to wander through to pick up a snack or lunch, or a few things for dinner. It’s a place to find something you haven’t tried before. A place to see neighbors and friends. What farmers market gets better than that?
Fairfield Farmers Market
1451 Post Road
Sundays, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Rain or shine