(Host) Most summer Saturdays, Rutland’s Depot Park is filled with shoppers buying fresh vegetables, flowers, baked goods and other locally produced odds and ends.
The popular farmers’ market traditionally shuts down during the winter.
But, as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, renovations are nearly complete on a new indoor market that will be open year-round.
(Keck) Greg Cox owns Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland. He says members of the local farmer’s market had been looking for an indoor site for a year. He says they found just what they were looking for in the old Strand Theater.
(Cox ) “And we looked at this place and my reaction was wow, this could be cool.”
(Keck) Cool is an understatement. The historic theater, which was built around 1912, is huge – close to 15-thousand square feet.
Chipped plaster walls rise up over three stories and a dramatic arched ceiling looms 50 feet overhead.
All this month, volunteers like Charles Jacien will be sawing, hammering and cleaning to get it ready.
(Jacien) “We’re going to scrub the walls down, throw some fresh paint on it, string some lights and let about 45-50 vendors in here.”
(Keck) In addition to local growers and craftspeople, Jacien says musicians, artists and sculptors will be on hand each week.
It’s exciting, he says, to breathe new life into such a historic place.
(Jacien) “This is pretty neat – just like everything else in Rutland you’ll find something pretty neat. You look up at the skyline and that’s really special too. There’s a lot of little niches downtown and you just have to look for them.”
(Keck) Old-time Rutlanders will remember the Strand. But for newcomers, the theater is easy to miss, tucked behind the Rutland Natural Food Co-op on Wales Street.
The Co-op, which has been using the empty theater as a warehouse, has agreed to provide an entrance to the farmer’s market through the back of its store.
Local farmer Greg Cox says it’s just another example of how many different organizations and businesses have come together to make the project work.
(Cox) “And to be able to be able to have this as a center – in the downtown community linking businesses and artists and farmers – is just an amazing – it’s so good. You know Rutland is an uncut diamond. It’s amazing.”
(Keck) There are currently 62 farmers markets operating in Vermont. That’s up from 56 three years ago.
While most are held during the summer, Brattleboro operates one year round and there are limited farmer’s markets opened during the winter in Montpelier, Chelsea and Norwich.
Kelly Loftus, of Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, says gross sales are over three million dollars a year – a number she says is increasing by 15 percent annually. Profits could be even higher, she says, if the state had better infrastructure.
(Loftus) “There’s a need for more processing plants – processing could be anything from slaughter to labeling to packaging. That seems to be a real stumbling block to a lot of the producers in the state and that’s something that the agency is actively addressing in terms of what we can do to help producers get their products to the market – to consumers.”
(Keck) Consumers in Rutland will have their chance to buy local at the new indoor farmer’s market beginning Saturday, November 3rd.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.