PORTLAND – Farmers set up tables with fresh produce, flowers and other goods Saturday, just as they have for most of the past 242 years. But this year, the farmers and their market are getting a little extra boost of publicity.
The Portland Farmers’ Market, holding its first session of the season Saturday morning in Deering Oaks, has been named one of America’s 10 best by Travel + Leisure magazine.
The magazine lauded the market’s organic vegetables, the tomatoes and napa cabbage that will begin arriving in a couple of months and the melons and blueberries that show up later in the summer. It made special mention of Thirty Acre Farm’s lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, dill pickles and gingered carrots, which are made without sugar or vinegar.
The Portland market also got a boost because the magazine interviewed Steve Corry, the owner of Five Fifty-Five restaurant in Portland, in the list’s lead story on what he likes about farmer’s markets and his hometown market in particular. He said his appreciation for markets goes back to when he visited some in his father’s native Ireland.
Corry said last week that Portland’s inclusion on the list is “a nice surprise, but not altogether unexpected because of the amount of recognition the local movement has received in the last three to four years here in Maine.”
Sasha Rose of Portland, who visits the market regularly and was accompanied Saturday by her two children, Molly Katz, 2, and Isaac Katz, 8 months, said she appreciates “getting to know the farmers — and getting to know where your food is from is really good.”
For instance, Rose said, she bought chicken at the market and appreciated that the farmer posted pictures of the apparently content chickens roaming around the barnyard.
She said she also likes the community aspect of a farmers’ market and the park setting, which means her kids can get some fresh air and exercise every Saturday.
Larry Bruns, who owns Hanson Field Flower Farm in Scarborough and has been a regular at the market for 15 years, said the fact that the market is full of only Maine goods is what makes it special to him.
“If you don’t grow it here, you can’t sell it here,” he said. “You can’t get bananas and papayas here.”
Bruns, who was the go-between for the farmers with city officials in the last few years, said the only big issue facing the market is its success. He said there’s a waiting list of farmers hoping to get a spot in the market and the city added another market day this year to try to accommodate some of them.
In addition to the Saturday market at Deering Oaks and Wednesdays in Monument Square, the market now also operates Mondays in Monument Square, he said.
Expanding the size of the Saturday market is still under consideration, he said, but farmers who already have spots in Deering Oaks are opposed because putting in more vendors would mean less parking space for customers.
The city thinks customers can park behind King Middle School, but Bruns thinks having to walk across busy Deering Avenue would discourage some from going to the market.
Mark Haidmann of Maple Spring Farm in Harrison is happy he got a spot in the market this year, but he’s surprised that it made the 10-best list, he said, pointing to better-known markets in cities such as Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
But Haidmann is looking forward to the year, noting that he’ll be bringing 36 varieties of tomatoes to the market in July.
Corry will be among those checking out those tomatoes. He said either he or one of his sous chefs goes to the market to buy fresh produce.
“When tomatoes are at their peak, we’ll just buy them all,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: