THE BRUNSWICK-TOPSHAM LAND TRUST farmers’ market at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

THE BRUNSWICK-TOPSHAM LAND TRUST farmers’ market at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The weather’s been in and out, up and down, this spring, but steady sign of summer arises anyway. Tuesdays and Fridays it flowers in the small bed of the Brunswick town mall; Saturdays it gathers large under the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s (BTLT) auspices at Crystal Spring Farm. There, and there, the weekly farmers’ markets bring us into season.

Last December, I celebrated winter solstice with a solitary walk on snowy trails at Crystal Spring Farm; it was austere and lovely, with the temperature peeking just over zero like an old Kilroy drawing.

Summer’s oncoming solstice asks for different marking, a social one. And so, in anticipation, on June 9th, I drive out early to a parking place not far from where I took my iced walk in December past. This time, however, instead of walking away from the farm proper, I will walk to it. In doing so, I will traverse some of the 5 miles of trails at this jewel of preserved lands in our region.

The market opens at 8:30 a.m., and, given summer crowds that often see cars lined up beside the road at a distance from the parking lot, BTLT is strict about this opening time. Walkers, on the other hand, are cut some slack because they are few, and they require little space when they arrive. As with many adventures, this one asks only that you step between two trees and put one foot in front of the other. On this brilliant morning when the early cool has depressed the bugs, that’s an easy ask.

FARMERS’ MARKET shoppers at Crystal Spring in Brunswick. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

FARMERS’ MARKET shoppers at Crystal Spring in Brunswick. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

I stash my car in some dark shade and set out. Soon, I’m on the East Trail passing clusters of lady slippers, and, after crossing a few small ravines, I climb gradually toward Pleasant Hill. On the horizon, over a field of nodding grasses, a cluster of white-peaked tents mark the market. The Pleasant Hill Trail cuts back and forth across the face of a rise that is the hill, and, after a few minutes of sunny breeze on the Marilyn Settlemire stone bench, I step down to the market.

Volunteer parking attendants, always cheerful it seems, wave this day’s influx of early cars toward the open ranks of pressed grasses; the parking fills quickly. Early shoppers don’t dawdle. They go straight to their targets, and lines form quickly at the only farm offering strawberries thus far this year and in front of the Zu Bakery tent. A long-time Zuthusiast, I’m pleased to see this enduring popularity.

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I idle up and down the “aisle” between ranks of tents watching the morning take shape. In the first 20 minutes the crowd doubles, as do the lines. Later I’ll ask Jacqui Koopman, who manages the market for BTLT how many people she expects on this Saturday, and she’ll guess 2000, or 1850 more than my roughcut count gets soon after the opening. And even as the line thins in front of Zu Bakery, and I join it to get mine (and then shift over for strawberries), the other vendors begin to get busy. Already the first arrivals are carrying their cloth bags back to their cars and making for the exit.

Some, though, will linger, exchanging news with neighbors and comparing finds. It is a market truism that you can find whatever you want out at Crystal Spring, but that’s no accident. Koopman, who composes the market from the healthy interest shown by local farmers, intends just that. “We strive for a balance of offerings and now that we have the basics (meat, fish, cheeses, produce etc.), I seek producers of less familiar items such as miso, real almond milk or chaga tea,” she wrote me a few days after my June 9th visit. She also cites, “an opportunity to educate the public about healthy local food, and I take that seriously.”

As I wander back and forth watching and buying, I feel a dynamism in this marketplace, which rises in its clustered tents early each Saturday, and then by mid-afternoon is a whistle clean space that promises return in a week. Yes, it deals in and with the basic fuel of life, but the voices, gestures and laughter point to sustenance equally vital. As Koopman pointed out, “We prefer local smallscale vendors for whom the farmers’ market is their primary retail venue.” That preference emphasizes community and local enterprise, in short where and how we live best.

As reminder of the market’s social import, I hear the first notes of today’s banjo and fiddle duo. Of course, I say to myself, there should be music at such a gathering.

After 45 minutes, I push off on the trail back to my car. Back at the Settlemire bench atop the hill, I pause to make couple of notes. I hear them before I see them — four women in trail-running shoes and gear; they climb by me at a good clip, and then, after the trail loops back, I see them nearing the market. It seems it even serves as a refueling way-station for long runners on a fine Saturday near the solstice.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident and chair of the town’s Conservation Commission. He writes for a variety of publications. His book, Critical Hours — Search and Rescue in the White Mountains, was published by University Press of New England on April 3rd, 2018 and is available at Gulf of Maine Books, Longfellow Books and other venues. He may be reached at [email protected]

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