Published June 14. 2011 4:00AM Updated June 14. 2011 9:51AM
North Stonington - Helen LaFaive is stumped.
The state Department of Transportation told her an average of 45,000 vehicles per summer weekend day travel along her stretch of Route 2 - an artery between Foxwoods Resort Casino and the coastal towns that dot Connecticut and Rhode Island - in a town where thousands of acres are dedicated to agriculture.
Yet she can't find many interested vendors for the town's first farmers market.
"We've just got the greatest location ever," LaFaive said. "We're giving small producers an outlet, but we've emailed 126 farms twice and have only gotten two enthusiastic vendors."
Could it be that, with a dozen farmers markets in eastern Connecticut, there aren't enough farms to support more?
Marilyn Mackay, a spokeswoman for the North Stonington Business Association, said some of the farmers she talked to are committed to other markets.
"I made calls on (Helen's) behalf, and all said they'd love to do it, but some of the markets they're in, they're on waiting lists for two or three years to get in because they're so successful," Mackay said. "Like any business, it may take time to prove itself, but I hope they can hang in."
First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane II said there's a farm stand along Route 2 near the Mobil station and "the farm stands and farm markets are nice to have in town."
LaFaive has 1,000 feet of frontage along Route 2 as part of the 23-acre Shunock River Farm, but only two vendors besides her and her husband, Doug LaFaive, have signed up to sell goods.
Those vendors - Highland Thistle Farm in Canterbury and Kathy's Gardens in East Lyme - have a diverse group of products including vegetables, pork, beef and chicken meat, fresh baked pies, bread and cheeses.
Add in the LaFaives' white strawberries, flowers, kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes, carrots and turnips and even those three vendors should have a pretty nice collection of goods.
LaFaive said the growers involved in the market abide by her emphasis of locally grown and made products.
"There are some amazing people out there that make amazing things out of things that are from Connecticut," LaFaive said.
It's not expensive for vendors, either. LaFaive said she'll charge $75 a vendor per season, and they must be insured.
Comparably, New London farmers market manager Sam Fritzsche said it costs a vendor $200 for a permit for the season.
He has about "a solid dozen" vendors, mostly found through networking online and from different markets' lists. Fritzsche said he began recruiting in early March and made sure to minimize competition by diversifying his vendor list.
LaFaive said she'll be out there, trying to make a market work in North Stonington.
"We want a European-style farmers market, not a bazaar with Avon products being sold," LaFaive said. "It should reflect the farming community in Connecticut and have some class because there are some really talented people."