West Hartford couple want new Farmers’ Market to be a ‘third space’

WEST HARTFORD — A new farmer’s market in town aims to be everyone’s “third place.”

That’s the vision behind Scott Franklin and Mary Collins’ Blue Back Farmers Market, which opens its inaugural season June 19.

“As a professor working with students during the pandemic, they were so discouraged and the decline in community on campus was so sad,” said Collins, who teaches at Central Connecticut State University. “It really made me realize the need, not just for our community, but for ourselves, to create frameworks in which we can rebuild again.”

Franklin and Collins, who got married just before the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t want their market to be a place where people stop for quick groceries before leaving. These are people who stay in the market.

“We came up with a slogan, which was come for the food and stay for the fun,” Franklin said. “We don’t want it to be one and done. We want them to come, buy a bunch of carrots and look around a bit. We thought it might add another dimension to make it extra special.

Examples of what could keep buyers away are the programs and events outside of the routine and rotating vendors that the marketplace will host. On June 19, visitors can meet the chef of the Artisan Restaurant while the CCSU Gerontology Program will host a story-sharing event for people over 60. Other events during the first few weeks of the market include a recycling demonstration, an art of weaving demonstration, a visit with a nutritionist and more. Live music will also be present every week.

“That idea of ​​lingering — third space is key,” said Collins, who draws inspiration from the campus environments she’s taught on. “I like this idea of ​​discovering something. You learn something. You could go see this wood carver. The concept of a vibrant campus but in a farmers market definitely shapes my vision of what we wanted to do.

The two lined up a diverse list of vendors, including Barden Farm and Sweet Acre Farm. Other vendors will sell cheese, salsa, bread, pies, and seafood, among other things.

“We’re already starting to get approached by all kinds of people who want to be salespeople,” Franklin said. “We want to focus on fruits and vegetables and sustainability. Guest vendors will change weekly. You will have a reason to come back. It won’t be the same every week.

Franklin and Collins both credit their board of directors, which includes Peggy Hall, Jonathan Janeway of Sweet Acre Farm and Jackie Johnson, with getting the market started. They hope to supplement their volunteer ranks with others interested in facilitating their vision.

“We’ve already achieved our goal of meeting cool new people,” Collins said. “All kinds of people want to participate. The other cool thing that happens is that not only will they come to the market, but the people helping us with the market are so happy to have a place to go and a positive thing to do. They feel like they are contributing to the community. We are all looking for ways to reintegrate into community life.

The market will be held every Sunday from June 19 through October 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the West Hartford Town Hall parking lot. A list of vendors and events for each week will be updated throughout the summer online at bluebackfarmersmarket.org.

James V. Payne