When Jamie Gaudion was living at Quaker Neck almost thirty years ago, there was plenty of fresh produce available in Kent County, but no central place to buy it. Having lived in France for several years with her husband Pierre, she was convinced that Chestertown could support a Saturday farmers’ market similar to those in every French village, offering local farm produce. More than ten years before such legendary markets like the famous San Francisco Ferry Building Market was started, Chestertown established its market which has been in continual operation since its beginning in 1983. Jamie and her family now live in Maine, where she is a teacher at Foxcroft Academy.
The Spy caught up with her by phone last week to talk about the founding of the market.
How did the Chestertown Farmers’ Market start?
We were having dinner with Hurtt and Hila (my sister) Deringer and the then mayor Elmer Horsey and his wife Joan. This was just after Pierre and I had returned to the U.S. from living in France for a few years. I remember saying to Elmer something like ‘Chief, Chestertown needs a market where farmers can sell their local produce. I think people would support it. This would make Chestertown a market town, and good things happen in market towns.’
Well, Elmer told me to figure out a plan and the town would support it.
What were your first steps?
I knew people who lived in town would love the idea of walking to the park for fresh produce. I knew some farmers who agreed to give it a try, and then found a few others who joined in. One guy already sold produce at Crumpton, another was from Rock Hall. Owen McCoy, who was there from the beginning, agreed to help me out. We teamed up with Bill Ingersoll, our town manager, who was really supportive and helpful in making the market a reality.
We also worked on a drawing of a banner we would put up in the park to let people know about farmers coming in on Saturdays. It was designed and painted by Marilyn White who graciously offered her talent. Bill may still have the original design in his office.
What was the relationship with the Farmers’ Market and the Town?
From the beginning it was a town project, and we worked with Bill to get his input and agreement on policy. In the beginning the market was just along Park Row, with those parking spaces reserved early Saturday morning for vendors. I remember we decided against permitting jewelry and gift items because we wanted the focus to be on farm goods and fresh bakery items.
When we started, there were as many flower vendors as there were produce stands. Flowers were a huge draw. Buyers and vendors got to know one another, and friendships were fostered on those Saturday mornings. Also visitors to town seemed happy to have the market there to wander through and become a part of the small town routine where friends and neighbors met and children ran relatively free.
Did you limit or control the vendors?
As far as control, Bill offered guidelines for policy. The sale of meat, shellfish, and items needing refrigeration was not permitted. Owen and I kept an eye on the vendors, trying as much as possible to make sure people were not selling things they hadn’t grown or produced.
We also wanted to keep the park itself open and accessible as a space for families to enjoy.
Are you pleased how the market turned out?
Eventually I turned over weekly market duties to Owen, and became just a joyful participant, savoring like everyone else the gorgeous venue of a fresh produce market on a summer or early fall day.
It gives me enormous pleasure to think that the market is thriving.