The first outdoor farmers’ market of the season is always something to look forward to for Austin Chadd.

“The outdoor market is always so much busier than what we see in the winter,” said Chadd, owner of Green Spark Farm in Cape Elizabeth. “Everyone loves the park, and it’s so nice to be out here.”

Although it was lightly raining and 47 degrees, Chadd still had plenty of customers stopping by his tent Saturday at the Portland Farmers’ Market in Deering Oaks.

The market is held indoors at the former Maine Girls’ Academy in the winter, and Saturday marked the first outdoor market of the year.

For some, the weather was a reason to stay home. The city on Saturday postponed its Earth Day Celebration in Payson Park, which will now be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.

But others were still eager to welcome the start of a springtime tradition at the farmers’ market.

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“We’re just excited about it,” said Danielle Trout, of Falmouth, as her two daughters, Darcy, 5, and Margot, 3, splashed in a puddle nearby. “We want to see the farmers and what everyone has. They’re excited. We’ve been talking about it all week.”

Vendors at the market laid out bountiful tables filled with leafy greens, pickled vegetables, herbs and prepared foods like soup and hummus.

“It’s been ok,” said Kelby Young, owner of Olde Haven Farm in Chelsea. “I think the faithful will come out. People are excited. It’s a long-standing tradition, and it’s nice to have the community come out and support us, even if it’s rainy.”

Darcy Trout, 5, jumps in a puddle Saturday with her sister, Margot, 3, at the first day of the Portland Farmers’ Market in Deering Oaks. The outdoor farmers’ market, a sure sign of spring weather, started about a week earlier than previous years. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Young said he’s looking forward to spring on the farm. The mild, rainy winter wasn’t great for his animals.

“It’s actually harder on our crops and livestock to have the winter we just had,” said Young, who said the rainy weather made it hard to keep the inside of his barn dry and led to respiratory issues for his animals. The flooding in central Maine also washed out many roads, he said, which made it hard to access the woods where he manages his pigs.

“It was a weird winter,” he said. “We’re trying to adjust.”

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Beth Schiller, owner of Dandelion Spring Farm, restocks the eggs she has for sale Saturday at the Portland Farmers’ Market in Deering Oaks. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Beth Schiller, owner of Dandelion Spring Farm in Bowdoinham, said she was grateful for people coming out to the market despite the weather. “Our customers are very dedicated,” Schiller said. “I think this is the earliest the market has transitioned to outside, and I recognize it’s not the most comfortable weather to be buying food outside.”

Schiller was bundled up in rain pants and a winter hat as she sold eggs, kale, scallions, parsley, black bean wheatberry soup and garlicky carrot soup. Another table contained fresh rosemary, thyme, peppermint and oregano.

“The fresh herbs are really great right now, both from greenhouses and some that over-wintered outside,” Schiller said.

Schiller doesn’t sell at the indoor market but has been coming to the outdoor market for 16 years. “In general, it’s always nice to be back in the park,” she said.

Mel Jordan carries her tote filled with greens Saturday at the first day of the Portland Farmers’ Market in Deering Oaks. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Mel Jordan, of Munjoy Hill, filled two big bags with swiss chard, fresh garlic, rosemary, sourdough bread, four pounds of beef and spinach to use in a ragout and soup. As the weather gets nicer, she said she hopes to spend more time gardening and being outside.

But even if the rain keeps up, Jordan will still be at the market.

“Weather is never a deterrent to going to the farmers’ market,” she said with a laugh.


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