By Aaron Retherford
The Barre Farmers Market was fortunate to find a welcoming home at the Vermont Granite Museum, giving it plenty of room for parking and vendors during its Wednesday and Saturday markets.
The Vermont Granite Museum is not charging the Barre Farmers Market for use of the space. Instead, the two organizations have formed a mutually beneficial relationship.
Besides permitting the farmers market to use the parking lot area, the Vermont Granite Museum is also helping with the kids programs. There is a bocce ball court, so the two organizations can draw in families.
“It’s going to be a family destination and a place to hang out on Saturday as far as I can see,” Joann Darling, market manager of the Barre Farmers Market, said. “We’re very happy to be here at the beginning and starting to establish our market here, so it builds off of everything else that’s going to happen.”
In return, the farmers market has helped with a number of projects like the museum’s restoration plan. Volunteers are in the midst of replanting the area behind the museum along the Stevens Branch of the Winooski River with native species and removing the invasive species. The Barre Farmers Market has also helped clean and maintain the grounds.
The Vermont Granite Museum officially opens June 3 for tours, but it might take some time for it to fully realize the potential of its partnership with the farmers market.
Darling said she expects at least 30 vendors during the peak summer season at the farmers market and hopes that it can grow to the size of Montpelier’s farmers market, which features over 50 vendors and can bring over 2,000 visitors in a day.
In order to capitalize on the increased foot traffic from the farmers market, the museum will be open Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Wednesday nights, Vermont Granite Museum Executive Director Scott McLaughlin said he is considering staying open later to align with the farmers market, which is open from 3-7 p.m.
McLaughlin said he hopes to have 8,000-10,000 visitors this year compared to about 2,500 people in 2014.
The museum has doubled its footprint inside the building. Tours of the museum include exhibits showcasing the processes of how granite is turned into a finished product, the artists and designers who have supported the granite industry over the last 150 years, and the communities that have been impacted by the granite industry around the state.
There is also a ¾-mile trail on site. McLaughlin said the Stevens Branch is worth checking out. There’s a small series of falls and it’s a nice spot to go white water kayaking.
McLaughlin said the museum will have a presence at the farmers markets in an attempt to recruit members. Members will be able to attend events at reduced prices. The museum will be hosting a RockFire event on June 26, which is a new addition to the RockFire weekend held at Millstone Hill. The Friday night event is designed to be more family friendly, and will include a one-mile long fire lit path leading to 12 stages, featuring actors reenacting aspects of Barre’s history.
The Barre Farmers Market had been held at the Vermont Granite Museum about 10 years ago before moving downtown. Darling said she is looking forward to seeing both the farmers market and the museum grow and become bigger parts of the community together.
“We’re just going to draw in off each other as far as event pieces go. I just think it’s a great collaboration,” she said.