Leaving Amherst Farmers Market after 18 years
Amherst, MA (July 8th, 2017)--Jeremy Barker-Plotkin needs to find a new activity for his Saturday mornings. “I’ve been setting up my farmer’s market display 30 Saturdays a year for the past 18 years,” says the 46-year-old farmer. Barker-Plotkin will be celebrating his last market this Saturday, as he prepares to open a new farmstand at the farm on North Pleasant Street. Cake will be available to market-goers who come to say goodbye to the bounteous display in the Spring Street farmers market.
While the departure from market has a touch of bittersweet for Barker-Plotkin, the new farmstand will provide him with an ample outlet for his energies. The stand will be open seven days a week, and will feature organic produce and other local products from other Valley farms along with the veggies, eggs and meat that Simple Gifts typically brings to the market. Simple Gifts Farm’s 250-member Community-Supported Agriculture program will also be able to pick up their shares seven days a week from the new farmstand. A Grand Opening for the new farmstand will happen on July 15th, complete with balloon animals, farm tours, live music, and more free cake.
The farm has had some trouble signing up enough members to allow it to go to with all farmshares, which was the orginal vision of the farm. “The farmshare market is tight in this area, with so many great farmers offering shares,” says Barker-Plotkin. The farm has offered a flexible 10-pass option since 2016, which allows members to come in for 10 pickups anytime over the course of the season, as a way of making the share more accessible for those who have a smaller household or are gone during the summer. The farm stand will offer another more flexible option. “We want to keep the core share experience for members, while also opening opportunities for those who might want to come in and just buy a tomato or a bag of salad mix.”
Barker-Plotkin started started selling at the Amherst Farmer’s Market in 1999 when he started the farm operation. He was initially part of the Lampson Brook Farms Cooperative, a group of farmers who all operated plots at the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown. The cooperative also brought produce to the Central Square Farmer’s Market in Cambridge, and operated a small stand at the farm site in Belchertown.
The North Amherst Community Farm land trust was formed in 2005 to preserve the property in North Amherst where Barker-Plotkin now farms with farming partner Dave Tepfer. “ I had outgrown the site in Belchertown, and wanted to find a site where I work with Dave to integrate livestock into the operation.” The land trust purchased the site in 2006, and Barker-Plotkin and Tepfer have been farming there ever since. The operation has grown from about 9 acres in 2006 up to the current 20 acres in organic vegetable production, along with an additional 20 acres in pasture for the animals.