Tag Archives: Westport Farmer’s Market

COVID Roundup: New Grocery Store; Church Outreach; Earth Animal Art; Face Masks; More

And the newest grocery store in Westport is … Via Sforza.

The popular Post Road West Italian restaurant now sells a wide variety of produce, meat, dairy products, pasta, rice, sauces, spices, herbs, beverages, snacks, and pantry and household items. They’re open 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Of course, they still offer their great takeout and delivery lunch and dinner menus too. Click here for more information, or call 203-454-4444.

Last year, Green’s Farms Church kicked off an ambitious “Church of the Future” campaign. Now is not the greatest time to be in the middle of a fundraiser. But they’ve been around for 309 years. They plan to be here for centuries more.

They’re renovating the facility, parts of which are 170 years old. That includes work on the meetinghouse, refurbishing the pipe organ, and making meeting areas more open and flexible. Local groups like AA will benefit as well.

But in this time of great need everywhere, Green’s Farms Church is thinking beyond its walls. Some of the funds raised are earmarked for local non-profits. The congregation has helped them in the past; now they’re ratcheting up that support even more.

GFC is donating $25,000 each to 4 groups: Homes With Hope, Mercy Learning Center, Pivot Ministries and the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. 

Church leaders hope these challenge grants stimulate additional donations to each of these groups by others. And they hope as their own fundraising campaign continues, they’ll be able to help these and other groups even more in the future.

In the last 35 days, Westport Masks have made over 1,100 masks — and given them all away. Recent recipients include Westport’s Public Works, Parks & Recreation and highway departments; Westport Post Office; elderly residents through Westport’s Department of Human Services; Open Door Shelter in Norwalk; Food Rescue US; Thomas Merton Family Center in Bridgeport; Stamford Hospice, Norwalk Hospital and more.

While continuing to donate to front line and vulnerable groups, they’ll also create masks for friends, family, children and the general public in return for small financial donations. Westport Masks uses 100% of the funds to buy supplies. They suggest $10 — but they never let anyone go without a mask if they need one.

All masks are 2 layers of 100% cotton. They’re washable, with a filter pocket for added protection. They even have neck ties, so they can be worn all the time.

If you are confident with your sewing machine — or cannot sew but can cut fabric, or have spare fabric or good quality bed linen to donate, or want to one of your own — email WestportMasks@yahoo.com.

“We’ll keep going until no one else needs a mask,” promises co-founder Virginia Jaffe.

Yesterday marked the return of the Westport Farmers’ Market to the Imperial Avenue parking lot. Gratified shopper Emily Mikesell reports:

“Besides being as safe as possible, it was an unexpectedly sweet, positive experience. It ran like the most cheerful Swiss watch you’ve ever seen! It was wonderful to see so many familiar vendors, even behind masks. And though I felt sad not being able to over-buy from wandering and browsing, I’ll put myself in that mood over the weekend when I order for next week.

“Until then I will enjoy delicious raw milk and yogurt, farm fresh eggs and just-baked bread.

“Yes, the experience is different. But it still supports the vendors we love. It’s a real day brightener!”

To order online and for more information, click here.

Pets (and pet owners) love Earth Animal. Now artists do too.

Through May 31, they’re collecting artwork from all ages. Sketches, watercolor, chalk — whatever works is fine. So are group entries. The only rule: nothing bigger than 24″ x 36″.

Put your name on the back; drop it off at the store, or mail it to 925 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Drawings will be hung in the store — and whoever created their favorite will win a $500 gift card.

Questions? Call 203-222-7173.

A couple of months ago, the message on this sweatshirt spotted on Beachside Avenue would have drawn puzzled looks. These days, it makes perfect sense.

(Photo/Ed Simek)

And finally … what better way for the King’s Singers to share Billy Joel’s beautiful tune than by asking 732 people around the globe to join them in a “Stay at Home” choir? Kudos to all (and everyone behind the scenes too). What a lovely way to end the week.

Farmers’ Market Returns To Imperial Lot

The Westport Farmers’ Market is coming “home.”

After a successful, COVID-induced pre-order and pick-up run at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, the popular weekly event returns to the parking lot at 50 Imperial Avenue beginning tomorrow (Thursday, May 14).

As usual, the market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, it will continue to operate on a pre-order basis with scheduled pick-up times. There is no onsite shopping. Delivery options are available.

There are 15 vendors now; more will be added throughout the season. Online orders are accepted from Saturdays at 4 p.m. through Monday at noon. (In other words, all orders have already been accepted for tomorrow.)

“We love our community, and are thrilled to return to our summer location,” says executive director Lori Cochran Dougall. “While the market is operating differently, we are who we are at our core. We look forward to launching the harvest season with our supporters.”

For more information, email director@westportfarmersmarket.com.

COVID-19 Roundup: Westport Marketplace; Farmers’ Market; Near & Far Aid; More

Three of Westport’s biggest business boosters — the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association and Our Town Crier — have joined with town officials, to launch a virtual “Westport Marketplace.”

The goal is to provide information about — and links to — all local businesses (retail, restaurants, professional services and more). It’s free, and a great way to promote Westport businesses at a time when they most need it.

Westport Marketplace needs 10 to 15 teenagers for unpaid internships. They’ll communicate with business owners and managers regularly to update information like hours and availability, services provided, contact info, images and links, etc., and upload it into the database. 

Interested students — who can start as soon as possible – should email betsy@ourtowncrier.com.

For over 65 years, Near & Far Aid has been helping area residents and organizations in need. Their all-volunteer work is astonishing: The most recent cycle ended this week, with nearly $1.1 million granted to over 100 nonprofits.

But that’s not all. Just 3 weeks ago, Near & Far Aid established a Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. It provides immediate assistance to agencies on the front lines addressing food insecurity, shelter, and mental and physical health.

Already, they have distributed $118,000 in emergency funding to 30 groups (including Westport Department of Human Services and Homes With Hope).

Board members meet weekly. They recognize the fluidity of the crisis and the changing needs of nonprofits, so Near & Far Aids reacts with speed and generosity

Of course, they need assistance too. Click here for more information on the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund; click here to donate.

Right now, the Westport Farmers’ Market should be gearing up for its annual mid-May opening.

It will be a while though before the cherished Thursday event returns to Imperial Avenue.

But — at a time when farmers are struggling, and home-bound cooks are looking to make healthy meals — the Market thrives across the river.

Since April 2, Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center — where the Farmers’ Market had just closed after another great winter season — is the site for the social distance version.

Vendors stay at least 10 feet from each other, and wear (of course!) masks and gloves.

Shoppers click on the website, select a Thursday time slot between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., then shop online (Sunday 10 a.m. to Tuesday 4 p.m. only).

Pickup stations are 10 to 2 feet apart. Shoppers wait until their name is called. All items are prepackaged by vendors, and delivered to a central table. A delivery option is available for shoppers who don’t want to, or can’t, leave home.

It’s a clear, common-sense — and well-run — system.

“We have a responsibility to our farmers, food producers and communities to make the healthiest and safest local food available, using a model that will survive should a second wave hit when state restrictions are lifted,” says Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran Dougall.

“We’d rather be safe now than sorry later.”

Some updates on yesterday’s story about Staples High School’s “We the People” team’s Northeast Regional championship.

Final results show advisor Suzanne Kammerman’s team placed 5th overall — just 2 spots away from a national prize.

And 2 of the school’s 6 units finished 2nd in the entire country. Our constitutional future is bright indeed.

In addition, there was a Westport national champion — well, sorta. Alice Wanamaker –daughter of 1986 Staples grad Lynne Marie Wanamaker was a junior on the Easthampton, Massachusetts team that placed 1st overall. Congrats to the proud family, including Westport grandmother Barbara Wanamaker.

Westporter Joseph Sequenzia writes that his branding company milk* and a partner agency, Real Pie, have teamed on a social awareness campaign. Called #keepittogetherct, the goal is to help people feel more connected, despite being disconnected physically.

They ask residents, teachers, small business owners, front line healthcare workers, pharmacy and grocery store employees, delivery drivers — anyone in the state — to submit photos and videos of what they’re doing to, well, keep it together.

Using the hashtag #keepittogetherct on an image or video on social media will give you a chance to be featured on News 12, and become a part of the Keep it Together CT campaign. For more information, click here.

Terri Henderson spent 20 years in Westport. She’s now in Houston, but retains a deep affection for our town. Saddened by how deeply Fairfield County has been affected by the coronavirus, she shares a website she created.

It’s filled with resources in 8 wellness areas: physical, financial, mental, social, environmental, intellectual, occupational and spiritual. Click here to see.

Teresa Henderson

And finally … just look over your shoulder!

Unsung Hero #142

Alert, well-fed and grateful “06880” reader Pippa Bell Ader writes:

Lori Cochran, Westport Farmers Market‘s executive director, isn’t sitting behind a desk during the coronavirus crisis, shuffling papers.

Lori works hard, 60 to 70 hours a week, ensuring that Westporters — and residents of many other towns — have access to organic, locally grown food.

In normal times Lori would be taking a much deserved break from coordinating the Winter Farmers’ Market at Gilbertie’s Garden Center, before the summer market opens in May.

Lori Cochran

Not that Lori ever really rests. This is the time she normally regroups with summer vendors, making sure they comply with all health and safety regulations, understand the nuances of the market, and are ready for the vibrant Thursdays, from May to November.

But this year is different. Lori recognized early on that — given mayhem and shortages in supermarkets — there would be a greater than usual demand for locally grown produce.

She contacted farmers and food vendors; identified those with produce to sell right now; set up a method to purchase and pay for items in advance so that no money or credit cards touch hands; educated herself about best practices to minimize chances of spreading COVID-19, and developed a scheduling method to ensure that no more than 8 shoppers are at the market at the same time — and never closer than 10 feet.

And she did it all in less than 3 weeks.

Now in its second week, you’d think the current system at the Westport Farmers Market had been set up forever. Just click on the website before 4 p.m. Tuesday. Choose and pay for the items you want to purchase, then pick an available time to get your produce.

On Thursday, head to Gilbertie’s on Sylvan Road South at the allotted time; wear a mask and gloves.

Don’t mess with Lori. If you’re supposed to be at the market between 12:10 and 12:20, be there then!

A little rain — and a lot of coronavirus — doesn’t dampen Lori Cochran’s enthusiasm for the Farmers’ Market.

Parking is a breeze. Follow the signs to the first “waiting” station. When you reach the front of the line you are asked your name, and who you purchased from. Vendors place your prepaid order on the table. Pick up your food, then leave via a different route — still minimizing contact.

None of this happened by chance. Every detail, down to the meaningful statements posted at each station, was carefully thought out by Lori.

The Farmers’ Market’s many customers and vendors thank Lori for all of the work she put into this system of food purchasing.

We all wish for the day that this is no longer necessary. But until then, know that your local, organic produce from the Westport Farmers Market is brought to you in the safest possible manner.

Thank you, Lori!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

COVID-19 Roundup: Farmers’ Market Supports Vendors; Aid For Small Businesses; Videos, Art, And More

The Westport Farmers’ Market is between seasons. But they never stop helping their shoppers — or their farmers.

At a time when healthy, fresh food is especially important; when supermarket shopping carries risks, and purveyors — like all of us — have been rocked by COVID-19, the Farmers’ Market has a plan.

Just click here. Scroll down; click on a logo to select a vendor (there are 8: Calf & Clover Creamery, Seacoast Mushrooms, Wave Hill Breads, Farmers & Cooks, Two Guys from Woodbridge, Paul’s Custom Pet Food, Herbacious Catering and Ox Hollow Farm).

Place your order. Pay directly on their site, by Wednesday noon.  You’ll receive info about your scheduled pickup time by 8 a.m. Thursday. (Delivery is available too — but only in Westport.)

If you’re picking up, at the appropriate time head to the Winter Farmers’ Market site: Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane South. Your order will be bagged and waiting outside. Only the vendor and you will touch your bag.

Bring your own totes, if you’ve ordered several bags. “Bring your patience too,” the Farmers’ Market says. “We will figure this out together.”

Seems like the Farmers’ Market has already figured out most of it. Now all we have to do is order — and thank them, and their awesome farming partners.

Alert reader Marshall Kiev passes along a great summary of the relevant small business relief portion of the recently enacted CARES Act.

“This relief package should be an important  lifeline to many small businesses in Westport – coffee shops, butchers, hair salons, etc.,” he says. “Let’s get the word out to everyone. Many of these businesses are shut down, and owners may not be aware of the available funding.”

Click here to view — then forward far and wide!

Many shuttered Westport businesses can benefit from recent legislation. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

I’ve written before about Cup of Sugar: the fantastic local group providing deliveries of food, medication and anything else for people in need. (Just click here, then click “Request a Delivery.”)

Nick Ribolla was ready to graduate this spring, from Columbia University. He’s finishing online, but wants to help his home town. He signed up with Cup of Sugar. Still, he is eager to do even more.

He has a lot to offer. He’s sharp, multi-talented, funny and fun. (He’s also got plenty of experience with kids, as a longtime camp counselor).

Nick can help youngsters via Zoom with humanities (“especially English and creative writing”), and Spanish. He’ll also help them manage their workloads. “Whatever I can do, I’ll do,” he says simply.

Call or text: 203-451-9453. And of course, say “gracias.”

Nick Ribolla

The Westport Police Department has put together some great videos. A variety of Westporters (see how many you know!) offer messages — “stay strong!” “keep your distance!” “keep buying local!” — via their Facebook page.

Just search on FB for “Westport Police Department.” Or click here for the latest (with a cameo by yours truly); click here for another, and click here for the first.

Once again, Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared on a Sunday morning news show, direct from his Westport yard.

This morning, the former FDA commissioner told “Face the Nation” that coronavirus restrictions should remain in place ahead of a “difficult April,” and that the US might have “millions” of cases over the next few months.

Click here for the interview.

Coleytown Elementary School art teacher Deb Goldenberg is working with her colleagues around town to help every school share positive messages — through art, of course.

Students are drawing or making designs, then adding brief ideas like “Spread kindness and love.” They’re encouraged to experiment with patterns and fonts. Messages will be included with the school’s Morning News.

In today’s Persona interview, Jimmy Izzo discusses why shopping local is more important than ever. Click here for a clip, then download the app for the full Q&A.

Jimmy Izzo

And finally, if you’re missing a loved one — well, in a pandemic, just follow doctor’s orders.

PS: Sure, get up and dance. No one’s watching!

Wise Words At The Farmers’ Market

It’s a scene familiar everywhere in America.

A group of retirees gathers every morning. They sit in the same seats. Over a single cup of coffee, they chew over all the problems of the world.

A group in Salt Lake City realized that all their wisdom, all that advice, went to waste. No one listened to them.

So one Saturday, they headed to the local farmer’s market. They hung a sign — “Old Coots Giving Advice” — pretty much as a joke.

To their amazement — and despite the disclaimer “It’s pretty bad advice,  but it’s free” — people wanted to listen.

Old Coots at a Salt Lake City farmers’ market.

Sarah Gross saw a CBS News story about the group. Suddenly, a light bulb went off over the longtime caterer’s head: There are plenty of older Westporters, with lifetimes of experience and a wealth of advice.

And we’ve got a Farmers’ Market.

Which is why this coming Thursday (September 19), a group from the Senior Center heads a few yards south on Imperial Avenue. There — under a table, tent and chairs — the writing group led by Senior Center coordinator of writing programs Jan Bassin will offer advice to anyone who wants it.

The official topic is “what we would have said to our 25-year-old selves.”

But feel free to ask about anything else, from turnips to Trump.

Just don’t call them Old Coots.

They’ve taken the name Westport’s Wise Words.


A couple of old coots at an early Westport Farmers’ Market.

FUN FACT: Robert Penn Warren rocked Sarah Gross in her crib, and Ralph Ellison held her in his arms when she was an infant in Westport. Her extended family was made up of  authors and artists and the like — and her father was a book editor and literary agent until his death a few years ago.

Calling All Young Shoots

The Westport Farmers’ Market celebrates creativity.

Every Thursday, the Imperial Avenue parking lot teems with vendors offering creative ways to prepare fresh food (and not just produce — there’s meat, baked goods and more). Musicians perform. It’s fun, funky and alive.

There’s a lot to do, and see. It’s a photographer’s paradise too.

Which is why I’m happy to promote one of the the Farmers’ Market’s more creative opportunities.

An annual contest highlights images taken all summer long. And it’s got an especially creative name: The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition.

Get it?

“Towhead Tomatoes” — 2016 Fan Favorite winner, and 2nd place in 15-18 age group. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

There are 3 age groups: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. All photos must be taken somewhere on the Farmers’ Market premises. Submissions are due by September 6.

This is no rinky-dink affair. Jurors include noted photographers Eileen Sawyer and Bonnie Edelman, graphic artist Miggs Burroughs, and Westport Arts Center executive director Amanda Innes.

First-place winners in each category receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

Winners will also have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Anastasia Davis won 1st place in 2016 in the 11-14 age group for this shot.

The public can also vote online for their favorite images. “People’s Choice” winners in each category get a 1-year membership to the Westport Arts Center (soon to be called MoCA), and a Farmers’ Market t-shirt. All photos will be on display this fall at the Arts Center’s new home at 19 Newtown Turnpike. There’s a fun awards reception October 4 at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk.

Click here for photo guidelines and submission info. Click here to see past submissions.

Then fire away!

Farmers’ Market Sprouts Thursday

The Westport Farmers’ Market did not exactly have humble beginnings.

Fourteen years ago Paul Newman and his sidekick, Michel Nischan — the chef and co-ownwer of Newman’s Dressing Room restaurant —  opened the market in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot.

Newman’s name, Nischan’s passion — and the growing popularity of farmers’ markets — ensured a variety of vendors, and good crowds, from the start.

But now the Westport Farmers’ Market is really cooking.

It quickly outgrew its Playhouse home. The market moved to the Imperial Avenue commuter parking lot, just below the Westport Woman’s Club. There’s plenty of room, plenty of parking — and plenty to see, do and buy.

The Westport Farmers’ Market appeals to all ages. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

When the new season opens this Thursday (May 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), longtime market goers and eager newcomers will enjoy nearly 50 vendors, food trucks, chef demonstrations, children’s activities, music and more.

Offerings range far beyond fresh fruits and vegetables, to organic meat, seafood, bread, baked goods, coffee and tea (and kombucha), ice cream, honey and empanadas.

The most popular lunch trucks — pizza and Mexican food — are back too.

This year’s highlights include the Chef at the Market competition; Get Growing, the kids’ activity program, and more lunch seating than ever.

The Westport Farmers’ Market is not just a place to stock up on great, healthy food.

It’s a destination.

Somewhere, Paul Newman is smiling.

(For more information on the Westport Farmers’ Market, click here.)

Seed Exchange Set For Saturday

Every year between March and May, the Westport Farmers’ Market lies fallow.

It’s a time when farmers prep for the new season. But to do that, they need seeds.

And — with spring just (please, God) around the bend — so do Westporters with gardens of any size and type.

So on Saturday, March 16, the Westport Winter Farmers’ Market says goodbye to its indoor Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center home with a free seed exchange.

Everyone is invited to bring seeds saved from their own garden — or take home a few saved by others. WFM farmers will donate seeds from their favorite crops too.

All seeds are welcome — except those from invasive species (click here for the list). However, the market encourages people to bring and take home heirloom or organic varieties.

“Heirloom seeds are critical to reclaiming our food system,” says Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-McDougall.

“These open-pollinated plants have been passed down from generation to generation without human intervention or manipulation. They taste better, are more nutritious, and help protect plant diversity.”

The seed exchange runs this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. — or until all seeds are shared. Gilbertie’s is located at 7 Sylvan Avenue South.

Adult beverages and music will be provided. Can you dig it?

Teachers Whip Up A Tasty Day

For years, the Westport Farmers’ Market and Staples High School’s culinary arts program have teamed up to bring great food to folks in need.

Once a month, students shop for provisions at the market. Then they prepare and serve a delicious, nutritious meal at the Gillespie Center.

Yesterday, many more people got in the act.

As part of Westport’s Professional Development Day, culinary students and staff helped interested teachers — from throughout the district — shop for ingredients, then create and serve a meal too.

The initiative was led by Staples’ 3 culinary instructors: Cecily Gans (owner of The Main Course Catering, and a member of the Farmers’ Market Board); Alison Milwe-Grace (owner of AMG Catering and Events), and Laura Wendt.

Staples’ 3 culinary instructors (from left): Laura Wendt, Alison Milwe-Grace, Cecily Gans.

The goal was to give educators in the district “an overview of the culinary program’s relationship with the community, the Farmers’ Market, the farmers who provide the raw product for meals the students create, and the challenges those students face as they put meals together,” Milwe-Grace says.

Gans adds, “Building relationships around local food, and connecting farmers to the recipients of the food they grow, catch or raise is fundamental to the Farmers’ Market mission.” The Professional Development Day event strengthened other relationships too: those between students and teachers.

The Farmers’ Market and culinary instructors are dedicated to helping students “grow” — as cooks and people.

Yesterday, those students turned the tables on some of our town’s top teachers.

Westport teachers cook for the community.