Needham Farmers Market Ready To Grow

Event organizers are hoping to increase the number of vendors and move to the Town Common for the 2013 season.

With the first season of the Needham Farmers Market winding down this month, organizers are already looking ahead to next year—and to a possible expansion onto the Town Common.

A petition seeking local support for the move was posted last week on change.org and had already received 144 votes as of Sunday night. The petition is an effort to garner local interest in the move and is an early step in a process that is just beginning, according to Needham Farmers Market president Jeff Friedman.

From the beginning, the market’s arrangement with First Parish in Needham—where the weekly event is now held—was temporary, with the church committing to one full season and a possible second year, Friedman said.

“We had originally looked around for several locations, and it was difficult for a variety of reasons to find a more permanent location. Happily, First Parish made its front lawn available to us, and we took it because at that stage we really didn’t have anything and it was a good location. It has proven to be a good location, which is part of the reason we are considering relocating to the Town Common, which is just a stone’s throw away.”

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Friedman said both the current location and the Town Common are centralized and easy to access, with ample parking in the area on most Sunday afternoons.

“It’s good for us, and we think it’s very good for the town and very good, frankly, for the local businesses,” Friedman said of the market's current and prospective locations. “It brings a lot of foot traffic to the downtown area.”

The market, which opened June 10, is held every Sunday from 1-5 p.m. on the front lawn of First Parish, through Oct. 28.

In May 2011, Needham Town Meeting approved the necessary zoning changes to allow for an outdoor market by special permit. In February 2012, the Planning Board OK’d the Needham Farmers Market’s special permit request, for up to eight vendors.

Now, market organizers are looking to expand the size from eight vendors to 12, Friedman said. In addition to vendors selling fresh produce, herbs, meat, baked goods, tea and other items, the market this season has featured different artisans, nonprofit organizations and musicians each week.

The expansion would require town approval—Friedman said selectmen would need to give their OK, but the change in special permit would bring the group back before the Planning Board as well. So far, the market’s board of directors has not submitted a formal application for the change. But they are looking for feedback from Needham residents about whether a move to the common is a good idea.

Those interested in supporting the expansion and move are encouraged to add their signatures to the online petition at change.org.

“We’re beginning a dialogue with the town, and with selectmen,” Friedman said.

As for any concerns about regular use of the common, Friedman said the market would be much smaller than the Needham Business Association’s Harvest Festival and Street Fair, which are both held annually on the Town Common.

Market organizers would establish a plan to protect the town’s interests, including keeping some vendors on the paved area near Town Hall rather than on the grass, Friedman said.

“We think that we’ve proven ourselves in our first year. I think many people in town would agree,” Friedman said.

Needham Farmers Market’s last day of the 2012 season will be on Sunday, Oct. 28 from 1-5 p.m. The last day of the market will include Halloween festivities, similar to other theme days held throughout the season—such as a Tomato Fest, Apple Festival and Bike to the Market Day. Learn more at needhamfarmersmarket.org.

What do you think? Should the Needham Farmers Market move to the Town Common, stay put, or maybe go somewhere else in town? What do you think of its current size and location, and what would you change for the 2013 season? Tell us in the comments.


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