After almost closing for good, Ludlow Farmers Market hopes to make a strong comeback

By Cara Philbin
©2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC


The farmer’s market that took place on summer Friday nights on Route 103 in Ludlow may be moving to Depot Street in the center of town, says its new director, Emma Wright, as part of numerous changes she hopes for the 15-year-old market, which almost shut down for good after last season.

While Ludlow Farmers Market’s previous location on the lawn in front of Okemo Mountain School was certainly visible to weekenders driving north into town, Wright thinks these resort town habits actually prohibited meaningful customer engagement.

“Many people drive by, but do they stop on their way into town?” Wright says, noting how difficult that would be with a car full of luggage, children and sometimes pets. The market’s location, slightly farther from the village’s more walkable core, was an issue compounded by its Friday late afternoon-evening schedule, she says.

“We chatted with many different members of the community, and a lot of the feedback was that Friday evening was really challenging for Ludlow residents,” Wright says. She believes that moving the market to Sunday mornings and turning it into more of a village centerpiece would not only improve foot traffic, but also give customers something to look forward to.

“We are relatively unaffected by competition on Sunday, kind of a standalone adventure,” she says. “We want to appeal to our community and also capture the vacationers still here. We want to bridge that gap.”

Wright jumped into the fray after being in Vermont for just about a year. The Idahoan, who has six years of experience with farmers markets, moved to Vermont last spring to work at Plymouth’s Farm and Wilderness summer camps.

Emma Wright is working to bring back the Ludlow Farmers Market in a new location and new date and time.

By that time, the farmer’s market was in flux. The leadership structure was complicated by not having a market manager for a while, Wright says, so responsibility for day-to-day operations instead fell on board members who were also vendors trying to manage their own booths.

Then July’s devastating floods severely impacted the entire town, including the market. “From what I understand, about 19 vendors committed at the beginning of last year, but by the end that dwindled to eight or nine.”

“It sounds exhausting,” Wright says. “It’s important to have balance on a board, to have visibility from the vendors whose livelihood is tied to the market and also from community members who have a pulse on things outside.”

When she heard the market would close, Wright got curious. “I wondered what would happen if I just scratched the surface on the idea of reopening. Would this thing still be viable? So, I started asking around.”

What followed was an “outpouring of support” that motivated Wright to form a board of directors, which now includes Ludlow locals Leslie Cassano, Pam Trainer, Heather Tucker and Abby Childs, along with Greg Cox of Rutland’s Boardman Hill Farm and Mariah Ford of Haven Hill Farmstead in Wallingford.

Together, they’re working to breathe new life into the Ludlow market’s fundamentals, such as allowing only Vermont-grown and Vermont-made products.

“Something I’ve noticed and see reinforced is that we really care about local, in Vermont,” Wright says. “I see lots of people buy from their neighbors, trade with their neighbors and support each other’s livelihoods. So, we consider homegrown Vermont products as a wide umbrella.”

Wright and the board also want to discount vendors’ annual fees that are typical for farmers markets. “We hope to charge each vendor no more than $150 for the season, which is significantly less than the $400 to $450 you normally pay,” she says.

Block party set for March 20 to raise startup funds

To raise startup funds, awareness and a lot of fun, she and her board are holding a block party on Depot Street from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 with the goal of raising $2,000 for this initiative.

The event is “our one big push,” says Wright, and it will feature live music, food and drinks from local restaurants, including The Eatery, Homestyle Hotel and Stemwinder, as well as raffle prizes that include Okemo tickets, Nordica prizes, CSA shares and gift cards from farm vendors. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $20 or on arrival for $25. Click here to get your tickets now.

The viability of the move to Depot Street rests with Ludlow’s Board of Village Trustees, which is slated to meet on March 26.

Wright is optimistic. “I know that change is hard, and that we’re changing quite a bit with this market.  We’re doing it in a way that looks toward the future,” she says. “My goal is to keep Ludlow as a place I love to live.” Wherever the market is located, it is expected to open on Sunday, May 26, Memorial Day weekend.

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  1. Melanie cull says:

    I love the proposed new site for the market however, I’m concerned that having it on Sunday, rather than Friday won’t allow for shopping “for the weekend” on the way into town. I personally have purchased everything I needed for my stay at the farmers market on Friday evening. Which not only allowed a one stop shopping experience, but a sense of community.
    On another note, I haven’t missed Shaws one bit because I’d rather go to Singletons which always has everything could possibly need and more. Not to mention, incredible quality and the nicest staff on earth.