ASHLAND — The Ashland Farmers Market concluded another successful season on Saturday where children took part in a pumpkin-painting party as a way of saying farewell to summer.
Despite a light rain, several dozen children painted designs on the orange pumpkins lined up near the entrance at 125 Front St., leaving them to dry before carrying them back home.
"The kids still came and enjoyed it," volunteer Rob Moolenbeek said.
The market capped its third season Saturday, bringing together craftspeople, bakers, coffee roasters and about 20 food vendors. Some came from Ashland; others traveled from as far away as Lancaster and New Braintree.
Standing beneath a canopy, Keith Turner of Long Life Farm in Hopkinton helped customers bundle and weigh shallots, onions, Swiss chard, bok choy and other produce.
Turner, a farm worker, said he traveled along the East Coast this summer helping to grow vegetables, starting in Newfoundland and ending in Massachusetts. Turner said organic farming grows tastier, more nutritious food, which is better for the environment.
"It’s great to see the faces of the people who you work for, and knowing that you deliver them good, healthy, chemical-free food," he said.
Ashland resident Nina Ashurst discovered the market about two months ago and has returned each week. Her grocery bags were filled Saturday with green and red peppers, onions, cilantro, beets, turnips and two varieties of potatoes from Medway Community Farm.
"It’s wonderful," Ashurst said. "Fresh, free range eggs for $5 a dozen, which is a very good price compared to what you have to pay in the market - the supermarket. The produce is delicious. I’m cooking more than I would have with it."
Moolenbeek said about 300 people visited the market Saturday, although attendance has been much higher during better weather.
"We are very successful," said Moolenbeek, treasurer for the farmers market and a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit group that organizes the events. "We will run about 1,000 people per week normally."
The market was created by members of a community gardening organization. Its mission is to provide a venue for local farmers to sell their products while also increasing awareness about nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
The market is run entirely by volunteers. It pairs food with live music and special events, which this year included a dog day and lobster festival.
"I think our market, specifically, is very strong in volunteers," Moolenbeek said. "If you compare it with some of the other local markets, they have, sometimes, a paid market manager, and then it becomes difficult and they have to do all the work. We share the work."
The market has also been beneficial for wine makers such as Casey Vandervalk of Vandervalk Farm & Winery. State lawmakers passed a measure in 2010 allowing licensed farm wineries to sell their products at approved agricultural events.
Vandervalk said his business, which is located in Mendon, is best known as a Christmas tree farm. The Ashland market provides a valuable opportunity to showcase his farm’s other products, such as wines, jams and jellies, he said.
"We’re out in the middle of the woods, so nobody knows where we are. So it’s a destination for a Christmas tree, but not for anything else. So if I have any other products to sell, I definitely have to do them at farmers markets," said Vandervalk, who has participated in the Ashland market for two seasons.
Although the summer season is over, the Ashland Farmers Market will hold a special event Nov. 22 at Ashland Middle School. About 40 vendors are expected to participate in a "pre-Thanksgiving" market. Pies and turkeys are on sale now. Information is available at http://www.ashlandfarmersmarket.org.
Jim Haddadin can be reached at 617-863-7144 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JimHaddadin.