WESTFIELD-Mary Kadomoto has been a weekly customer and a volunteer at the Westfield Farmers’ Market, and because of the dedication she has seen from volunteers, vendors and the community, she now embraces a new role – market manager.
“I moved away from Westfield for over 35 years and recently moved back,” said Kadomoto. “When we moved back here, I was so excited that there was a farmers’ market downtown.”
Kadomoto said her first impressions of the market ranged from “vibrant” and “varied” to “well attended.”
“For the first two seasons, I enjoyed being a weekly customer,” she said, noting then she joined the volunteer team two seasons ago.
That experience will serve her well as she embarks on a new volunteer opportunity as market manager since Debbie Randzio recently relinquished her duties to pursue “new ways to be of use to others.”
In an Oct. 7 note as part of the Westfield Farmers’ Market newsletter, Randzio said she, along with Peter Langmore, assistant manager, and Maria Parent, treasurer, had all reached “turning points in their lives” where they must choose to go in different directions, “not out of dissatisfaction or unhappiness, but with deep gratitude for the opportunities we have been given to put our skills to good use in service to the people of Westfield.”
Randzio, Langmore and Parent will miss the weekly interaction with the farmers’ market family and wish Kadomoto and her new management team the best as they now embark on the next evolution of the market.
“We thank you, our customers, community, and market family, for the support you have given us for the last six years, and pray that you will continue your commitment to and participation in the market as a vital part of life in the city of Westfield,” said Randzio.
Langmore shared a similar sentiment.
“I will miss meeting new people,” said Langmore, adding, “I will also miss helping to provide a place where people could purchase a variety of food and quality craft products as well as enjoy all the musicians.”
As Kadomoto now takes the reins, she is hopeful that the market will continue to evolve in the coming years.
“I’d love to see even more farmers, cheese makers, and more food sources,” said Kadomoto. “I hope that the volunteer team and I can reach out and recruit more local producers.”
While the coronavirus pandemic shorten the market season, Kadomoto said because of the one-way path that was created to ensure social distancing and to follow state guidelines, they were able to better track the number of visitors each week.
“I think the fact that, even this year with a smaller market, it is so well attended speaks to the importance,” said Kadomoto, adding, “We averaged 400 to 500 customers weekly.”
For businesses seeking exposure – as well as being warmly greeted and assisted by volunteers each week – Kadomoto is confident that the number of market vendors will continue to increase over time.
“Firstly, it’s great publicity for businesses,” said Kadomoto, noting that farmers have indicated that customers will also visit their farm stand business and say they first heard about their offerings at the Westfield Farmers’ Market. “The vendors think we are very friendly and very nice, and we try to help them. In a normal environment we have volunteers who can help set up a tent for a business but during the pandemic we couldn’t.”
Of course, the volunteers are the backbone of the market – from set up and take down duties to working behind the scenes in a variety of roles.
“I want to say a huge thank you to those who volunteered and worked behind the scenes and at the market each and every week during this pandemic,” said Kadomoto. “This year’s group of volunteers was bigger with new folks joining, and incredibly dedicated to the market. This year’s team worked through a lot of issues raised because of the pandemic and it was wonderful to see the market thrive.”
Kadomoto noted that there is always a need for more volunteers to serve in a variety of ways.
“We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in getting involved,” she said, noting volunteer opportunities can range from placing signage and setting up and taking down the market, to those who have financial skills, as well as those who enjoy communications and logistics.
First and foremost, Kadomoto said her drive to lead the 2021 team comes back to the purpose of the market that was set in motion six years ago – to provide low-cost, healthy food to the community and to support local agriculture.
“I want to say thank you to the market management team – Debbie Randzio, Peter Langmore and Maria Parent – who developed and managed the market and the volunteer team for the past six years,” said Kadomoto. “They have done a phenomenal job and are handing off a strong contact group of customers, vendors and processes.”
As Kadomoto begins her own strategy for the 2021 season, she is “grateful and thankful” for the opportunity to work with others who believe in the mission.
“I think we are set up well for 2021,” said Kadomoto. “I want people to know that anyone can come and join our team.”