Athol Farmers market won’t return this summer

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-25-2023 4:34 PM

ATHOL – Citing a departure of vendors and lack of needed time, the lead organizer for the town’s farmers market has decided that it won’t be held this year.

Mary Holtorf, chair of Athol’s Downtown Vitality Committee (DVC) and lead organizer for the market over the past several years, explained that last year, the owner of produce vendor Kiwi Farm took the summer off to visit their family in New Zealand. Then, primary vendor Coolidge Hill Farm got an offer to participate in a Saturday market in Worcester “that was too good to pass up.”

This coincided with the Complete Streets work on Walnut Street, which entails reconstruction of the stone wall and work to the road and sidewalk. So, it was decided in late July 2022 to suspend the market until conditions made a reopening more feasible.

“It was kind of a mess, so at that point there was no sense in trying to get new vendors,” said Holtorf. “We are also dealing with an undermanned, inactive Agricultural Commission.”

Holtorf, in addition to chairing the DVC, is also active in a number of other community initiatives and felt she didn’t have the time needed to commit to the market.

“Moving forward I hope to get new Agriculture Committee members and start working with the Senior Center to build a new community garden behind the center with senior/accessible gardens, in addition to the traditional raised beds,” said Holtorf. “When the Lord Pond Plaza project comes to fruition there should be a much better location for the farmers market.”

Holtorf added that participants had weighed the possibility of moving the market to Lord Pond Plaza with a potential change to Friday afternoons. In recent years, the market had been held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Millers River Environmental Center at 100 Main St.

“We had been getting feedback that people were too busy on Saturdays,” she said. “Friday would put us in conflict with the Petersham market, and our own Fourth Friday events. Time will tell.”

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In a post on the Athol Farmers Maket Facebook page, Holtorf says, “I recommend the Orange Farmers Market, Thursday from 3-6 as the best alternative. Stop in and visit local farmers there at the Armory, East Main Street, Orange.”

Fourth Fridays return

While the market isn’t happening, Athol residents can look forward to the return of Fourth Fridays, which kick off tonight from 4-7 p.m. At the May 26 Fourth Friday there will be food, artisans, music and a variety of activities. Entertainment will include a performance by the four-piece band The Can Collectors and magician Peter Niall. DejaVu at 479 Main St. will give out free packets of seeds, and visitors making a purchase at the store can enter to win a perennial. The event is sponsored by the Downtown Vitality Committee.

The theme of this month’s celebration is Flower Power. Visitors to downtown Athol are urged to dig out their bellbottoms and tie-dyed T-shirts as they walk the downtown and take advantage of deals being offered by businesses in the traditional retail core. The Fourth Friday celebrations continue every month through the end of August.

The remaining Fourth Friday invents include: June 23 with a ‘School’s Out’ theme and music by Scott Savoy; July 28 – Shark Fest, with music from Jared Moore and; Aug. 25 – Dog Days, with entertainment from Water’s Edge.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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