The Star-Herald

PI Farmers’ Market opens early with enthusiastic community turnout

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The annual opening of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market was especially poignant for many vendors and attendees as the event coincided with the gradual lifting of pandemic-related business restrictions in the state.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon on Saturday dozens of folks wandered throughout the Riverside Pavilion in search of fresh vegetables, flowers and plants, homemade sweets, herbs and botanicals and other locally grown farm and garden items.

Many social distancing guidelines are in place to ensure people stay safe while enjoying the market, market chairperson Deena Albert Parks said. All vendor owners must wear masks and are responsible for keeping their booths six feet apart from one another. 

Kimberly Cook (behind table, right) and Kelly Mathes of Confectionately Yours prepare an order for a customer during the opening of Presque Isle’s Farmers’ Market on May 23. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star-Herald)

Hand-washing stations are set up throughout the pavilion and vendor owners must not allow customers to touch food until they pay for and take their own items. The market is also asking people not to visit if they know they are sick and to avoid lingering.  

Parks noted that while the first day of the market featured only 12 vendors, more will join in as the growing season moves along and they have more fresh farm items such as berries and greens to sell. 

The market plans to remain open due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture naming farmers’ markets as essential services for people to purchase food. Parks expected a good turnout throughout the day.

“We have some very loyal customers who are excited to see us,” said Parks, who also operates Chops Ahoy Farms in Woodland. “It’s a great place for people to learn how to eat seasonally when foods are most fresh and to share recipes and cooking tips.”

Parks’ fellow vendor owners shared her enthusiasm about bringing the market to community members during times that are challenging for many. Kelly Mathes, owner of Confectionately Yours in Presque Isle, was seeing a steady stream of customers eager to buy bakery items such as cookies, cupcakes, cream horns, scones and cinnamon and caramel rolls, she said. 

“This is our second year at the market,” Mathes said. “It’s nice to get out into the community again — at a distance.”

Vendors at the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market must be spaced six feet apart to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The market opened on Saturday, May 23. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star-Herald)

At their booth, Phil and Jackie Doak of Woodland brought items from their Doak’s Maple Ridge Farm Store, including jams and jellies, maple syrup, honey, relish and pickles. Jackie Doak said that they have been part of Presque Isle’s market for three years and love the camaraderie among the vendors and friendly interactions with customers.

“We’ve been to other markets, but this one is delightful,” Jackie Doak said. “Everyone we’ve seen has been thrilled to come back.”

Mother and daughter Beverly and Sarah Knowles of Presque Isle came to the market Saturday morning for what has become a yearly tradition of seeking out locally grown foods.

“It’s wonderful, especially this year, to come out and talk with people,” Beverly Knowles said. “I always look for fresh vegetables. I like to support the local businesses.”

The Presque Isle Farmers Market will be open every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Riverside Drive until October.

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