By Alex Lippa
---- — For the freshest food and local growers, Jane Lang said there’s only one place to go.
“Farmers markets are just a great opportunity to find out exactly where your food comes from,” she said.
Lang organizes the Salem Farmers Market, one of several weekly markets held throughout the region. Since it started in 2010, Lang has seen that market expand in customers and vendors.
“There was a time when we’d get 100 customers each week,” she said. “Now, we average between 300 to 400.”
Lang said a big reason for the success is the effort the state has made to promote farmers markets.
Gov. Maggie Hassan declared this month “New Hampshire Eat Local Month,” and this week, the state is also celebrating National Farmers Market Week.
“To have it officially recognized is wonderful,” said Kristine Mossey, president of the New Hampshire Farmers Market Association. “The farmers are all very supportive of it.”
Mossey said there are 70 farmers markets throughout the state, a number which has increased through the last decade.
Nada Haddad, a field specialist for University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, said she is in the midst of doing research on farmers markets in the state
“People are looking at more local foods, the freshness of the product and specifically the quality of the vegetables,” she said.
But not every market has seen the same expansion.
In Derry, the town cut down its support of the market from $20,800 to $5,000 for this fiscal year. Manager Beverly Ferrante said the farmers market won’t be affiliated with the town next year.
“It’s time for us to be independent from the town,” she said.
Ferrante said the group, whose members she would not identify, is looking at two new locations, but she wouldn’t say where those were. She said losing the town’s support wouldn’t be an issue.
“We don’t need the funding,” she said. “We are going to bring in nonprofits and work closely with parks. This is too important to just let it go.”
The Atkinson Farmers Market moved to Freshwater Farms this year and has had a successful summer.
“It’s a more visible location, so it’s gone very well,” manager Robin Hernandez said. “I’d say we have at least doubled or tripled the amount of people that we have come here.”
Funding for Atkinson’s market comes primarily from the Atkinson Women’s Civics Club.
“It takes about $500 to $800 a year to run the market,” Hernandez said. “My goal is to make it self-sustaining.”
That’s where Lang’s market is at in Salem.
“Our money comes from membership fees and that’s it,” she said. “Out of that, we are able to pay for everything.”
Lang said she charges $10 per vendor for each day they are at the market.
But the market isn’t just about fresh produce anymore.
“It’s expanded so much,” Mossey said. “People can walk around and see things like dog biscuits, beer and wine. It gives people more of a reason to go there.”
Artisans are something that Ferrante hopes to lure more of to her market.
“People like things made in New Hampshire,” she said. “Between the artists, the individuals and the pottery, we like to give a lot of options.”
But others remain proud of their food.
“It’s all about fresh, local food and supporting the people who grow them,” Lang said. “It’s a great place for entrepreneurs. They can start by having farmers markets and selling their foods, and it’s a gateway for them to sell their own food.”
Local farmers markets Atkinson Freshwater Farms, 1 Kipkam Rd., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 12. Derry Municipal parking lot, 14 Manning St., 3 to 7 p.m., every Wednesday through Sept. 25. Plaistow Town Green, 145 Main St., 2 to 6 p.m., every Wednesday through Oct. 2. Salem Lake Street Garden Center, 37 Lake St., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., every Sunday through Oct. 20.