As Karen Michaud looked over the fresh apples, tomatoes, corn and pumpkins on display in the parking lot behind the CVS drug store in Westbrook, she couldn’t have been more excited.

“I love it – fresh veggies, fresh food,” said Michaud, a Westbrook resident. “You know this is right out of the garden, nothing added or sprayed on it. Better price, too.”

Michaud and other lovers of fresh fruits and vegetables are so excited because a farmer’s market has finally returned to Westbrook after dying off three years ago. Five farmers have taken out permits with the city to sell their wares at the farmer’s market in the CVS parking lot from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

Kathy Poirier, who worked with the city recently to build a skate park, is responsible for the market’s return. She went to the farmer’s market in Portland and asked farmers to come to Westbrook. Poirier is working on recruiting more farmers for the market.

“People kept asking me about it – why they had to go to Portland,” she said.

The farmer’s market withered three years ago, after moving to Riverbank Park. Lloyd Storey, the owner of Storey’s Garden Center on Route 302, was the last farmer who tried to sell his goods there.

Storey said he couldn’t afford to pay someone to work the farm stand anymore because sales were so poor. He said big box stores have hurt local farmer’s markets, because they offer many of the same things in one place.

“There was just nobody down there,” said Storey. “It was a miracle if I broke even.”

Because of his experience, Storey is waiting to see whether the farmer’s market takes off in Westbrook before he gets involved again. To be successful, Storey said the city would have to attract more farmers, put up signs and take out advertising to attract customers to the market.

“If they want to bring back the farmer’s market, that’s what they have to do,” he said. “It’s just not automatic.”

‘So much better’

On a recent afternoon, Llewellyn Gervais of Saco was selling pumpkins from his garden and Bruce McLewin, who owns Dunstan Greenhouse and Farm Market in Scarborough, was selling a host of items. McLewin’s spread includes Macintosh apples, mums, tomatoes, corn, string beans, red peppers, onions and cucumbers.

The apples sell for $1 per pound, the tomatoes sell for $1.25 per pound, corn sells at $5 per dozen and plums at $3 per quart, to name a few.

Conrad Noel of Sanford, who also works at Family Dollar, was excited because he could get some fresh pumpkins to decorate his home for Halloween.

Mike Saulle, who helps McLewin with his goods, said patrons are sporadic, but he expects things to pick up once the word gets out.

“I think this market will go over big next year once people know we’re here,” Saulle said.

For now people are dropping in just because they see the tables and the pumpkins from William Clarke Drive. Recent Illinois transplants Jess and Matt Mullins popped in and were happy to get fresh tomatoes for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

“I really miss the homegrown tomatoes,” said Jess Mullins of the tomatoes she used to grow in her garden and buy at farmer’s markets in Illinois. “Fresh-grown from the garden is so much better than at the store.”

Besides getting fresh produce, shopping at the market also helps local consumers support local farmers.

Poirier is doing her part to help them out, spreading the word to Westbrook residents like her neighbor, Dawn Gagne, who said Poirier told her about it and she’s stopped by three times in the last month or so.

“I thought it would be good to come down and support the local farmer,” said Gagne.

McLewin said the market got a late start this year. He and Gervais have been out for only a month or so. It’s late in the season, he said, but he’ll be around for at least another month depending on the weather.

“It’s a start, if they want to get it going,” he said.

Gervais and McLewin agreed with Storey that the market would do better with advertising.

“If the people come out to support it, word will spread, and I’ll tell all the farmers,” said McLewin. “And soon you’ll have more farmers than you can shake a stick at.”

Bruce McLewinFarmer’s market gets fresh start

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