ASHLAND – At the Ashland Farmers Market, every weekend is a festival and on Saturday ribs, flags, and bluegrass were part of the 4th of July weekend celebration.
In its fifth year, the farmers market is held every Saturday from June through the beginning of October and features cuisine from farmers and restaurants across Massachusetts.
“We decided early on that in order to draw people in we had to be more than just a market,” said Florence Seidell, who is one of 14 volunteers who keeps the market running. The volunteers take turns as market manager and arrange special events, games and bands for each weekend.
“If you’re in town, then this is the place to be,” she said.
Most weekends have special themes, Seidell said, including dog day, the Ashland Olympics and Strawberry Festival, during which vendors invent special recipes such as strawberry hummus and strawberry ravioli. But on Saturday, it was all about the stars and stripes for the holiday weekend.
Framingham resident Cindy Lane Adams performed bluegrass music with her band Mendon County, consisting of musicians from Uxbridge and surrounding towns. They played such roots folk classics as “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky” and modern folk hits such as “Wagon Wheel” to add an air of festivity to the rows of locally sourced produce.
“I think the folk music brings people together,” said Sue Boucher of Foster, Rhode Island, who joined the band to sing a song. “The music is just fun. You can’t say it’s all happy music, but it sounds happy.”
For residents, the Farmers Market isn’t just a place to get fresh ingredients, it’s a community event.
“There’s a sense of community here,” said Barbara Holland of Ashland. “I live down the street and I come every week. I love the fresh foods and the specialty things you can’t get anywhere else.”
Many vendors come from all over the state to be a part of the market. Ron Starcher, owner of Town Farm Gardens in Brookfield, had for sale an assortment of sweet and spicy peppers, hot sauces and pickles – all homegrown and homemade. His “nuclear” hot sauce even features the notoriously spicy ghost pepper in its mix, which at one point was considered the hottest pepper in the world until it was dethroned in 2011. The Carolina Reaper owns that distinction now.
“Every week I’m here and every week is special,” Starcher said. “It’s a really good market, one of the best in Massachusetts.”
With summer only beginning, the market will continue until Oct. 8, and more theme days are coming up. On July 16, the Culture Fest will feature Thai dancers and music. Labor Day will be the market’s Lobster Fest and vendors will again be challenged to come up with the most innovative recipes they can.
Brad Avery can be reached at 508-626-4449 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BradAvery_MW.