Connecticut’s Own Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market Named Finalist in National Competition Chance to win $80,000 barn lies in the hands of voters
(HARTFORD, CONN.) State Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky is encouraging all Connecticut residents to cast their vote for the state’s own Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market (www.coventryfarmersmarket.com) in the national Great Barn Giveaway contest.
The market is one of three finalists from across the country remaining in the running to win a 24 x 36 foot open-air barn valued at $80,000. Voting continues through August 15, 2011, and can be done online at www.greatbarngiveaway.com through a simple and quick process that requires no registration or commitment. The contest is a project of W.H. Silverstein, Inc., the Farmers’ Market Coalition, and the American Farmland Trust.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to put Connecticut agriculture on the United States map,” Commissioner Reviczky said. “Despite our state’s diminutive size, its heart and passion are huge, and our farmers put that care and love into everything they grow and raise here. Connecticut has a thriving, extremely diverse agricultural industry, which is showcased in our state’s 125 farmers’ markets. Please take a moment to vote to recognize one of those markets as the best and brightest in the country.”
The all-volunteer-run Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market opened just eight seasons ago, but has grown into one of the largest and most heavily attended markets in the state, despite its out-of-the-way location. After spending its first four seasons on busy Route 44, the market outgrew its site at the Museum of Connecticut Glass and moved to the Nathan Hale Homestead on South Street. Vendors and organizers alike worried that customers would be unwilling to take the road less traveled or might get lost trying to find the new location, but opening day put all fears to rest.
“We had 5,000 people show up that first day in 2008 at the Nathan Hale Homestead,” said Winter Caplanson, one of the volunteers who organizes and manages the market. “We were completely blown away. It really demonstrated the loyalty and dedication of our customers. And their support and enthusiasm have continued to grow and blossom ever since.”
Caplanson estimates the market averages 75,000 visitors a year. Customers come from not only eastern Connecticut but from all across the state and even from New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to buy Connecticut Grown fruits and vegetables, cheese and other dairy products, meats, seafood, honey, maple syrup, herbs, and flowers. In addition, there is a wealth of value-added items such as artisanal breads, salsas, pestos, and confections for sale, along with handmade specialty crafts.
“Farmers’ markets contribute significantly to our state’s economy,” said Commissioner Reviczky. “We estimate that $3 million passes through Connecticut’s markets each year. That money goes directly to the farmers and producers, who put it right back into their local communities. Overall, agriculture contributes $3.5 billion annually to the state’s economy and represents at least 20,000 jobs. These markets are an essential component of that equation.”
Caplanson said that the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market was selected as one of the three finalists based on their application essay, community support for the market, and the market’s vision for their future. The other two farmers’ markets selected as finalists are in Hemlock, Mich., and Borough of Chatham, N.J.
If Coventry wins, the market will use the barn to house demonstrations, classes, exhibits, live music, and other community events. The outdoor market runs every Sunday through October, rain or shine, and Caplanson said that the new structure would provide welcome shade and shelter from inclement weather.
“As of this morning, we are trailing the frontrunner by about 300 votes,” Caplanson added. “But we have great faith in the loyal residents of Connecticut.”
“Please take a moment to vote for Connecticut agriculture, and help this market win an $80,000 barn,” Commissioner Reviczky said. “In today’s challenging economic climate, it’s an absolute no-brainer. A simple vote could bring this asset to our state, free of charge, no strings attached. It’s a home-run for our community.”