PORTLAND – A new winter farmers market is set to open this morning after some last-minute scrambling to secure city permits and inspections.
The Portland Winter Market occupies a storefront at 85 Free St., across from the Cumberland County Civic Center. Farmers and other vendors plan to sell vegetables, bread, cheese, yogurt, milk, beef, pork and fish from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until the middle of April, when the Portland Farmers Market will return for the summer.
”They can’t wait. Everyone’s been preparing,” said Lauren Pignatello of Swallow Tail Farm in Whitefield.
Pignatello, who raises Jersey dairy cows, said she has been increasing production of cheese, yogurt and other organic products in anticipation of the Portland opening.
Seventeen of the 21 participating vendors are expected for opening day. Four must still arrange for city food service inspections before opening, according to the city’s inspections chief.
”It’s coming together, literally, by its teeth,” Pignatello said.
Pignatello and other organizers decided last month to start a winter market in Portland similar to one that opened in Brunswick last winter.
The market is not affiliated with the farmers market that operates in the summer in Monument Square and Deering Oaks, although some of the same farmers will be there. Because the winter market will operate in a privately owned space, it can have a broader variety of vendors, including bread bakers, fish sellers and a spice merchant.
The opening was delayed one week to give vendors more time to comply with the city’s licensing and inspection rules.
The city granted the landlord a change-of-use permit on Friday. Farmers and other vendors had to get licenses ranging in cost from $95 to $190. And six food service vendors who plan to serve prepared foods or non-farm products needed to get city health inspections before opening.
Two of the food vendors passed inspections on Friday and thus are permitted to open today, said Penny Littell, who heads Portland’s inspection division. Four others will be inspected next week or as soon as they make arrangements with the city staff.
The fact that the city does not do inspections on weekends made it difficult for some vendors to open this weekend, but Littell said the city is being as flexible as it can.
Pignatello said organizers didn’t anticipate the city’s rules, but are now ready to go.