From MetroWest Daily News:

ASHLAND – Husbands, wives, sons, daughters and apparently every dog in Ashland scoped out the scene at the opening of Ashland Farmer’s Market Saturday.

They came in packs for the fresh produce, baked goods, pastries, crafts, food trucks and other vendors.

Of course, one of the largest crowds was in front of 1634 Meadery’s tent. Jason Williams was handing out free samples of the Ipswich-made mead to thirsty patrons on the market, which organizers called one of the largest in the area.

It began in 2011 and thanks to the thorough research of Eric Brooks and the other members of the board of directors, it has taken off. On Saturday, there were 29 food vendors, three artisans and two food trucks.

Organizers expect that about 1,500 people would attend the market.

Just an hour into the market’s season, it looked like they’d reach that number. Parking on Front Street was nearly impossible to find without having to walk a distance.

“Each year it has grown,” Brooks said, noting that the drought threatened the sustainability of last year’s market. “This is one of the biggest community things in Ashland.”

The staff, he said, is completely volunteer, which he said is rare among farmers markets.

The event has helped new businesses develop a customer base and grow and has also helped Ashland’s downtown economy, said Florence Seidell, another member on the market’s board of directors.

“It is exploding,” she said.

The market not only brought out the local shopper, but also town and state officials, like State Rep. Jack Lewis.

“These are my constituents,” he said.

The market not only gives him the opportunity to meet with residents, but also a chance to help support local farms. Lewis said he asked Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo to be appointed to a joint committee on environment and agriculture.

“Largely because the Ashland Farmers Market connects so many local farms and small businesses,” he said. “A lot of the bills that regulate and support farmers markets come before that committee.”

Brittany Overshiner, former director at the Medway Community Farm, was manning her post at the Upswing Farm tent. She and her husband now work on that farm – situated on the Ashland-Holliston line – full time.

Overshiner operates a farmstand and offers Community Shared Agriculture, but also relies on drumming up some business from this particular farmers market.

“We do really good here,” said Overshiner.

Ashland couple Maura Kelly and her husband, Dan, have visited the market for just about every year since it opened in 2011.

They mostly come for the food, they admitted.

“This is a great community event,” Maura said. “It’s really grown a lot.”

The market, located across the the town library at 125 Front St., will run every Saturday until Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.