Williamstown Farmers Market provides hub for local vendors, Town residents, students

Julia Goldberg and Tali Natter

Shoppers at the Williamstown Farmers Market can purchase bright red tomatoes — among a wide selection of local produce. (Julia Goldberg/The Williams Record)

On Saturday mornings from May through October, the Spring Street parking lot bustles with chatter and music. The sweet smells of flowers, fresh vegetables, and baked goods surround attendees at the Williamstown Farmers Market (WFM). 

Near the entrance, baskets of fresh tomatoes, berries, eggplants, and mushrooms sit atop a flowered tablecloth at a booth manned by Dylan and Windrose Morris-Keating. The couple runs Talus Wood Farm, a three-acre farm in Western Massachusetts. They don’t own a farm store on their property, instead opting to sell their produce at various farmers markets instead. WFM is their personal favorite. 

“It’s just a good atmosphere,” Dylan Morris-Keating said. “It’s popular, it’s busy — they’re doing the right thing here.” 

After coming to the market regularly for three years, the Morris-Keatings have amassed a handful of loyal regulars. “They usually come early to get the best, because the best goes fast,” Dylan said. Their raspberries and strawberries are always the first to go, he added. 

Peace Valley Farm owners Bill and Susie Stinson said that cherry tomatoes are their bestsellers. Since the Stinsons began selling produce at the market during its first year in 1981, they’ve seen WFM progress tremendously, Susie Stinson said. “When we started, there were five vendors, and we were one of them,” she said. “Now it’s a destination: people come with their families, there’s dogs, there’s music. We didn’t have any of that in the beginning. It took 20 years for all that to start to happen.”

Peace Valley Farm has a strong connection to the College as well as to the Town: Since 1990, more than 150 students from Williams have interned there, and since 2000, the farm has worked with Dining Services to provide fresh produce to students. The farm also provides Log Lunch staff with ingredients on a weekly basis. From 2004 to 2012, the farm also invited students from the “Where Am I?” EphVenture to spend time at the farm harvesting vegetables. 

Beyond farm stands, WFM boasts a growing list of vendors in other fields. Leslie Reed-Evans, who has been serving as the market’s manager since last year, described the process of deciding which vendors to host. 

“We weigh the [number of] food vendors, producers, farmers, bakers, prepared food, and artisans,” Reed-Evans said. The market’s nine-person board then seeks out new vendors to add options available to shoppers. Currently, WFM is looking to provide more prepared food items, like burgers and breakfast sandwiches, and for a broader array of vegetarian and gluten-free foods. 

Sometimes vendors will apply and fill roles that the board did not anticipate. “This year, we’ve added a fish vendor, which was not something we [had] anticipated nor gone to look for,” Reed-Evans said. “But they applied, and we thought it would be a good thing, and it’s sustainably harvested fish off the coast of Massachusetts.”

Reed-Evans said that WFM has become a valuable space for the Town’s residents. “The community just doesn’t come here, buy what they want, then leave,” she said. “They stick around, they listen to the music, they’ve gotten to know the vendors.”

In the very back of the market, customers formed a long line as they waited to get their hands on gingerbread, pumpkin streusel, fruit jams, and cheesecake brownies from Chris’s Kitchen. Chris Bradich and her daughter Kerry Bradich have been vendors at WFM for almost a decade, and they’ve been attending farmers markets for at least 30 years.

The two tag-team all of their work: Chris makes the jam and many of the baked goods, and Kerry bakes all of their gluten-free products. Their most popular items are their blackberry-raspberry-rhubarb jam and the chocolate chip cookies, Kerry said. 

Kerry appreciates the market most for its sense of community. “You have a good combination of local people, the college kids, and tourists,” she said. “You can come here and stay all day, just hanging out.” 

Nora Phyrkitt, of Yarnworks, sells small knit animals at her market stand. (Tali Natter/The Williams Record)

Nora Phyrkitt of Yarnworks, who has been coming to the market for about 10 years, similarly remarked upon the energy of the market. “The people are amazing,” Phyrkitt said. “It’s become a destination on Saturday mornings for the community, and it’s so nice to see how happy people are to see each other.”

As the market buzzed, Phyrkitt sat quietly knitting next to her table, which displayed a wide variety of hats, gloves, and scarves, as well as a basket of small knit animals. 

Phyrkitt also enjoys wandering throughout the market. On a typical Saturday, she may purchase meat as well as some cookies, which she “goes nuts for,” she said. 

While the vendors are the main event, WFM also features live music. This past week, the market hosted a performance by Felix Sun and Events, Classroom, and Studio Support Specialist at the College Patrick Gray. “It really can be a musical glue between the College and the community,” Gray said. “It’s especially fun to invite a staff, student, or faculty member I’ve been working with at the studio for a special guest appearance on a song or two.”

WFM also sponsors an intern from the college every summer; this past summer, Rheanna Fleming ’23 worked there. “I was able to deepen my involvement with the community here, meeting many of the local farmers and artisans in Williamstown,” she said.

WFM is dedicated to serving the community, which includes a commitment to helping address food insecurity, Reed-Evans said. The WFM-Community Essentials Initiative, for example, provides weekly food donations to families in need in northern Berkshire County. Additionally, WFM became a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) market this July, which means low-income individuals and families can use their Electronic Benefits Transfer card at the market. The market received a matching grant from Berkshire Agriculture Ventures, allowing it to match every dollar an eligible customer spends up to $30. 

While the WFM is generally a hub for Town residents, students also stop by for the bounty that the market has to offer. As a senior without a College meal plan, Ben Platt ’23 frequents the market for fresh ingredients.

“I always get a couple ears of corn — the corn has been very sweet — and I try to get some gluten-free chocolate chip banana bread when I can,” he said. “It’s a good mix of people from school and also people we otherwise don’t see a lot on campus. It feels like you’re a part of the ‘town and gown’ relationship.”