WESTFIELD-Food vendors have a unique opportunity on Aug. 20 on the grounds of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church – to showcase their local produce at a farmers’ market hosted by Girl Scout Troop 40230.
The troop members – Allison Bower, Heather O’Connor, Kristen Stawasz and Paige Stawasz – gathered Wednesday morning at the church at 127 Holyoke Road to discuss last-minute logistics with their leaders, Patricia O’Connor and Lisa Stawasz, in anticipation of filling the front lawn of the church from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jordan Bower, another troop member, was unable to attend the gathering. The deadline for vendors to reserve a space free of charge is Aug. 13 by emailing Patricia O’Connor at [email protected]. Vendors are expected to set up their space at 7 a.m.
“Vendors and shoppers should participate because it is a great opportunity for the community to come together to share healthy, local foods, to support local businesses and neighbors, and to help the environment by encouraging eating locally,” said Patricia O’Connor, adding that an additional benefit for vendors is a guarantee of a “good amount of potential customers.”
This will be the third year that troop members have conducted a farmers’ market and note each year the event continues to grow. The market idea was spawned after an intensive year-long Girl Scout leadership journey titled “Sow What?”
“The girls looked at where our food comes from, how it is processed and delivered to us and the carbon footprint created in the process,” said Patricia O’Connor. “We spent a good amount of time focused on local foods and food sources.”
The “journey” challenged the girls to examine food-related issues and put a plan into action that would help solve one or more of the issues raised.
“The plan the girls chose to put into action was to create a farmers’ market that would bring attention to all the wonderful foods and food sources we have in our own backyard – in some cases – literally,” added O’Connor, who has a garden brimming with zucchini, tomatoes and squash.
After the girls studied “backyard gardeners” they realized the market could also be an “opportunity” for those in the church community to share their goods.
As the date for the market quickly approaches, the girls relish their roles of assisting vendors with setting up tents or tables and carrying goods for them. At the end of the market they are also responsible for cleaning up the site.
“Our main target is people who grow and prepare foods locally, but we have had a few non-food vendors in the past,” said O’Connor, adding that local crafters are welcome.
For Kristen Stawasz, her newfound knowledge about the importance of farmers’ markets has been a godsend.
“We hope not only vendors but the community will support this event,” said Stawasz. “It’s always great to bring people together – especially around organic foods.”
Paige Stawasz echoed those sentiments.
“Some of our vendors have unique items like popcorn on the cob,” she said, adding, “everything that is sold is fresh produce which is important for healthy eating.”
Heather O’Connor shared the sentiments of her friends.
“Our vendors work hard to produce good food and need to be appreciated more,” said O’Connor.
Allison Bower concurred.
“We worked really hard to get the market started so we could support all of our farmers,” said Bower. “We know how important it is to support those who grow fruits and vegetables.”
During the event the girls and their leaders can also answer questions about the Girl Scout organization and literature will be available upon request.