Today, the Westport Farmers’ Market begins its 12th season.
Its growth — from tentative beginnings in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, to a vibrant, beloved and very popular Imperial Avenue Thursday tradition — is remarkable.
Every shopper, farmer and vendor has their own story about what the Market means to them.
But none is more remarkable than this.
Each week, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission selects men to pick up extra food. They bring the produce, bread and more back to the center, where chefs make meals. They also offer recipes to folks who pick up the food that’s not cooked.
The honor to be selected to gather the goods is reserved for men who are winning their battles against alcohol or drug addiction.
“These guys are great,” says WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall. “We get to know them well. They’re so supportive of our staff and the vendors. They stay, they help us break down the tents, they do so much for us.”
Last year, one man came every Thursday. He was excited about graduating from the Rescue Mission. But he worried he might not find a job.
At the end of the market season last November, he still did not have one. Cochran contacted a few area restaurants.
One hired him. But she didn’t know it …
… until a couple of weeks ago, when she and her husband went out for dinner at a Barcelona group restaurant.
He added that he goes to church every Sunday. He has his own apartment.
And he got married.
Joyfully, he showed her pictures of his new life.
As Cochran left, the restaurant manager pulled her aside.
“All he keeps saying,” the manager said, “is that the Farmers’ Market gave him hope things would work out.”