WESTFIELD-A passion for reading has opened a new door for Loreen Emmonds – one she looks forward to sharing with city youngsters this summer.
Emmonds, who spent her career working in the special needs field with the Holyoke Public Schools, will become the “Pocket Lady” during a multitude of Thursdays at the Westfield Farmers’ Market.
The Westfield Farmers’ Market will open May 30 and run through Oct. 10 from 12 – 6 p.m., rain or shine, on Thursdays on the front lawn of the Episcopal Church of the Atonement on Court Street.
Emmonds, who recently joined the church and its farmers’ market committee, will be dressed in a calico print dress with a maroon apron featuring large pockets filled with storybooks.
“My storybooks will focus on gardening as well as classic stories like “Little Red Hen” and “The Hungry Caterpillar,” said Emmonds, noting that the themes tie in nicely with the farmers’ market.
Emmonds, who grew up in Chester and helped her grandfather on his farm, is familiar with barnyard animals and other critters that shaped her childhood. She plans to set up a tent and have colorful quilts for children to sit on while she reads delightful tales from 12:30 – 1 p.m. and again from 4:30 – 5 on selected Thursdays. Her readings are slated for June 6, 27, July 11, 25, Aug. 8, 22, Sept. 5, 19 and Oct. 3.
“More than 30 years ago at a church bazaar I had noticed a woman in costume reading and the idea stuck with me,” said Emmonds. “After a lot of research, I knew I wanted to do it too.”
Debbie Randzio, co-market manager along with Peter Langmore, said people like Emmonds make the weekly market unique.
“We encourage people to contact the market committee with ideas,” said Randzio. “Ideas like the Pocket Lady make the market better. We encourage people to go with their passions and share their talents with others.”
Randzio added she sees the storybook sessions as a “nice bonding time” for families.
“We encourage families to come to the market because it’s a fun place to be on a Thursday afternoon,” said Randzio.
As the market continues to thrive with more than 30 vendors this season, a new ministry of the church will also be featured adjacent to the playground – a Free Little Library.
The Free Little Library will be blessed at the May 30 opening of the market at noon, and then be accessible for patrons “24/7” to either pick up a book or donate a book.
“The library is open to all on the honor system,” said Randzio.
The market is now entering its fifth year under the management of a committee of community volunteers through the church.
“The market will welcome back many favorite vendors from last season including Moe’s Donuts, Pignatare’s Farm, Cal Craft Relishes, Stony Creek Farm, Relax, Rinse, Repeat, Trotwood Acres, MayVal Farm, Fortini Gelato and Runamuck Gluten Free Baker,” said Randzio.
Vendors also returning to the market include Ray’s Family Farm, Stoneybrook Cider, Meadow Burn Farm, Sweet JJ’s, Park Hill Orchard, Thai Chili food truck, Pitchfork Farm, Bev’s Patchwork, Jeff Bellefleur and Mike Koivisto.
“West Parish Orchards will return when the apples and peaches ripen,” said Randzio.
New vendors joining the market this spring include Merrywood with custom-made soaps, Nature Will Provide with foraged mushrooms, and Carolyn’s Scarves.
“Customers will be excited to know that Mount Warner Vineyards, who took a leave of absence last year, will be returning full-time this season,” said Randzio.
Vendors who participated in the winter market, including Crimson Lion with salsas, Whip City Jerky, and Sherman and Cherie’s Beezy Bees, will join the Thursday market scene.
Randzio still has openings for vendors for a full season, a partial season, or as “guest participation.”
“Of particular need are chicken, pork and fish vendors, as well as an additional beef vendor, and fiber products,” said Randzio.
The market will again be accepting SNAP cards, and because of anonymous private donations, SNAP customers will receive up to an additional $5 each week in market coins with their purchases.
Live musical performances each week by local musicians will continue this season, sponsored by a grant from the Westfield Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Opening the market on May 30 from 12 – 2 p.m. is Ed Bentley who will perform acoustic guitar and vocals, including a song he composed for the Westfield Farmers’ Market. From 2 – 4 p.m., Eva Cappelli will perform blues and jazz vocals, and from 4 – 6 p.m., Marcia Hendrick and Ted Lewis of Dogwalker will perform a selection of root, country and jazz music.
Highlights of the market during the season also include special events and demonstrations, and local artists and crafters may still apply to demonstrate their skills. Also, restaurant chefs who wish to offer cooking demonstrations are encouraged to contact the market committee at (413) 562-5461, ext. 101, or via email to [email protected].
Nonprofit organizations participating on opening day include the Master Gardeners of Western Massachusetts, Friends of Grandmother’s Garden, and Ascentria Care Alliance, offering information about the SNAP program and healthy living options from 12 – 3 p.m. Also, United Way/Thrive will be on hand with financial assistance information for people in need.
“The loyalty rewards program also continues this year,” said Randzio, noting that customers who attend the market six times and have their loyalty card signed at the market host’s tent will be entered into a weekly drawing for rewards including potted plants, market gift certificates, gift baskets filled with products from the vendors, and market T-shirts and bags.
“With the increased activity at the market, and growth in numbers of vendors, additional volunteers are needed to assist with setting up and taking down the market each Thursday,” said Randzio, adding that volunteers work in shifts on a rotating schedule and receive training. Inquiries can be made by calling the market committee or sending an email.
“The Westfield Farmers’ Market belongs to the community and is only possible with the help of community volunteers,” said Randzio.