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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Ledyard winter market continues summer success

    Ledyard — Come for the one thing you need. Leave with a lot more: a friendly chat with the vendors, a locally sourced breakfast sandwich and pictures with Santa.

    The Ledyard Winter Farmers Market, resuming Saturday after taking the weekend before Christmas off, is back. It continues a wildly successful year that started on shaky ground when former market master Mark Fields retired from the position in January.

    A core group of dedicated volunteers took it on, from working with vendors to developing theme weeks with corresponding entertainment and activities for the kids. In its 10th year, the summer market averaged between 700 and 1,000 visitors at its official entrance next to Ledyard Center School; there are four other entrances volunteers couldn't get a reliable count from.

    Market manager Laura Kelly said that anyone could have stepped up to put together a market, but it was successful because of the dedicated people who got together and combined their respective strengths to make it happen. Even after her family leaves town — her husband is in the military — the market committee has a system and set of practices in place for the next person to keep it going.

    The winter market, located this year at the Ledyard Senior Center, takes on a more casual pace than the summer market. People are more likely to stop in just for one or two specific items rather than make a morning out of it, but they also have more time to interact with the vendors.

    Mike Swanson of Broad Brook Acres in Preston has sold his family's pork products at both seasonal markets. Speaking by phone last week while one of the sows was giving birth to a new litter of piglets, he commended the new committee's approach, noting how unusual it was for markets to ask for and utilize vendor feedback.

    He said the winter market has been more about people looking for items for their meals rather than impulse purchases, and the farm's hams have sold especially well during the holiday season. He often had repeat customers during the summer, but now customers that started coming to him during the winter markets are coming back, as well.

    Broad Brook pork is one of the featured ingredients in the winter market's farm-to-table breakfast, started this year by C&D Coffee Roasters owner Corrado Sciarretta. Another regular vendor at both the summer and winter markets, Sciarretta said he started the breakfast idea as a way to get people to stay longer like they do at the summer market.

    "I do a specialty coffee. It's pure, it's very simple, no additives, no chemicals involved, and I wanted to keep the food that way also," he said.

    With the number of farmers that subscribe to similar beliefs at the market, he wanted to create a healthy and delicious option for marketgoers that showcases the other vendors and local producers. Swanson said he's gotten customers through the sandwiches; after tasting the sausage and bacon, they visit his booth to have a look at his other products.

    The breakfast sandwiches also include cheese from Stonington Cheese, and greens and potatoes from Brush Hill Dairy and Smith's Acres. One young customer tried Swiss chard for the first time on one of the sandwiches and came back to Sciarretta to rave about the newly experienced vegetable.

    The first week, he sold about a dozen sandwiches, and by week three he was selling 30 to 40. Thanks to the industrial kitchen at the senior center, C&D also can offer other breakfast dishes, such as biscuits and gravy.

    "Most of the people that I know that are vendors, their products are produced, made with one thing that everyone has in common: love. They love doing what they're doing, whether they're making soap or selling vegetables," Sciarretta said. "Each vendor I see out there has a labor of love with their product, and that's something you're not going to find in a supermarket."

    The Ledyard Winter Farmers Market runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon through Feb. 23.


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