In a newsletter distributed to “fans” of the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, the big news is that the market will return to the Nathan Hale Homestead.
Several months ago, the news was not so good. Market organizers reported that they had not been able to reach a mutually agreeable contract with Connecticut Landmarks (which oversees the Homestead) to remain at the Homestead and so, began searching for a new as-permanent-as-possible location.
After being offered some privately-owned land at 307 Silver St., the market organizers then began jumping governmental hoops – both state and local – in hopes of solidifying the new location in time to get the word out to their farmers and vendors in time for the upcoming summer market season.
The absolute deadline – so that the farmers and vendors could set their own plans – was the last day of January.
Now, it seems, the tide has turned and the market is cruising back to what was a very popular location, one that has grown to draw market-goers in the thousands.
The newsletter states:
After many twists and turns and with much help from the Town of Coventry, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Governor Malloy’s office, and YOUR SUPPORT… This summer, as you have for the past four years and will for the next TEN, you will find us at the Nathan Hale Homestead! … All the stars aligned for us to have landed a summer place, our old and happy home, just in time!
The newsletter also states that the Yankee Post & Beam barn that the market won in a statewide farmers market competition will be built at the Homestead.
To celebrate the good news, market organizer Winter Caplanson announced today that there will be a gathering from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 at the Cassidy Hill Vineyard in Coventry with libations and live music. “Thanks for opening just for us, Cassidy Hill!” the newsletter states. Click here for directions
“Our return to Hale under this arrangement is a win-win,” Caplanson said today. “The market has a beautiful long-term home under lease terms we can meet and we are able to remain in Coventry… and Coventry’s citizens and leadership made it clear to us over the past months that ‘in Coventry’ is exactly where they want us to stay.”
In a press release issued by the CT Department of Agriculture today, State Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky acknowledges that it is in the state’s best interests to support farmers’ markets, especially one as successful as Coventry’s.
“This is excellent news for the residents of Coventry and the farmers market… I commend the Town of Coventry and the farmer’s market for their work to ensure this great Connecticut tradition was not lost, and I thank Gov. Malloy for getting the parties talking again. Connecticut has a rich agricultural history, one that we want to encourage and expand,” he says.
The release notes that, of Connecticut’s 125 farmers’ markets, the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, now in its eighth year of operation, is “one of the largest and most heavily attended.”
“In 2011, it accounted for $500,000 in sales and was visited by over 75,000 people,” it states.
Describing how the new agreement was reached, the release states:
Negotiations to renew the lease between the Hale Homestead and the farmer’s market stumbled last fall over mutual concerns about expense and liability issues. During winter discussions, the parties reached an agreement to establish the Town of Coventry as the tenant with the farmer’s market subleasing the property. This assuaged the liability concerns and reduced insurance expenses, allowing the savings to be applied to the rental fees. The agreement also outlines that the town will coordinate the use and maintenance of the new barn which will provide shared income with a reserve held for barn maintenance.
Coventry Farmers’ Market organizer Roberta Wilmot, in an interview today, told HTNP.com that the town has signed a lease with Connecticut Landmarks, and the market will become a sub-leasee. She declined to specify, however, what the market will pay for rent for the 22 days it uses the property for the summer market.
As for the barn, the market will transfer ownership to the town, Wilmot said.
While the market will have priority for the barn’s use on market days, the town will rent it for public use (i.e. a wedding reception) through the town’s parks and recreation department, Wilmot said.
Income from rental fees will be split between the market (40 percent), the town (20 percent) and Connecticut Landmarks (40 percent), according to market organizer Winter Caplanson.
When the barn arrives this spring, there will be a groundbreaking celebration – probably in May – and then Yankee Post & Beam (the barn’s manufacturer) will do the actual construction… and once completed, it will be turned over to the town, Wilmot said.
Wilmot expressed relief over the new agreement. “It’s been a very long and twisted road to get us where we’re at… it’s been an exhausting six months,” she said.
She added, “the governor’s office, the Department of Agriculture and Coventry’s Town Manager (Elsessor) put a lot of effort into keeping the market in Coventry.”
When the crisis first made the news, the market received several offers from other towns to give it a new home. “The outpouring was unbelievable,” Wilmot said. “Our hearts were very warmed by that.”
She added, “We’ve been sitting on pins and needles – now we can tell our vendors we will have a home.”
Not time to relax, though
It’s not necessarily a time to relax, however. “Now we have to plan our programs, and we’re about six months behind,” Wilmot said. The summer market returns on June 3.
Wilmot credited the success of the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market to a strong, motivated and creative market leader, Winter Caplanson who, in turn is supported by a strong network of hardworking, committed volunteers.
And a hard-core fan base of market-goers.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations, although there’s still more to be done,” Wilmot said.
For the market’s first four years, it was located in a field behind a red barn (a local landmark) on North River Road near the intersection with Route 44.
For the last four years, it has been located on the grounds of the Nathan Hale Homestead.
Commissioner Reviczky, in his release, said the new lease is a win-win situation for the market and the historic site.
“It took considerable time, effort, and energy from everyone involved to reach this new agreement, but it was worth it,” Commissioner Reviczky said. “This is a marriage of one of the state’s most popular farmers’ markets and one of Connecticut’s historical treasures. The complete package is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
The Nathan Hale Homestead was the family home of State Hero Nathan Hale. Richard Hale, Nathan’s father, was a prosperous livestock farmer. The house on the homestead, built in 1776, was deeded to Connecticut Landmarks in the 1940s. Much of the acreage associated with the Hale farm is now the Nathan Hale State Forest, the release states.
Posted Feb. 9, 2012
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