PORTLAND — A steady flow of people found their way into the Irish Heritage Center on Saturday morning to peruse winter offerings from Maine farmers and listen to a little local music.
About 15 vendors filled tables with potatoes and carrots, canned goods, honey and meat. Lots of meat. Plus eggs, butter, yogurt and cheese.
The Portland Winter Farmers’ Market, born last year and moved to the former St. Dominic’s Church on Winter Street this year, is cozying into its new home. Last weekend, the Americana band Tricky Britches entertained shoppers and the Irish center had a table with information about the organization, along with T-shirts and other goods.
“People really wanted this here,” said Vinny O’Malley, an Irish Heritage Center board member. “They got together and made it work.”
The market approached the center last year when participants were looking to move from their original spot on Free Street. O’Malley said he was skeptical at first, but the farmers liked the space and the city was willing to work with them to get zoning changes in place that would allow a market in the building.
“At first I thought, ‘Yeah, it’ll be a bunch of potatoes and turnips,'” he said. “But there’s everything. Fresh tomatoes, basil – they overwhelmed us.”
The market started at the beginning of January and will run each Saturday through the end of April, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Mike Farwell, the owner of Uncle’s Farm in Hollis Center, sells his vegetables and honey at the outdoor Portland market in Deering Oaks in the summer. The market and his farm stand in Hollis are his only outlets.
“We can for the market in the summertime, so we just planned and did more,” Farwell said. His offerings include honey, pickles, sauerkraut and other canned vegetables. He and farm hand Keith Boyle staffed their table Saturday.
“So far, so good,” Farwell said of business at the winter market. “We’re seeing mostly regulars.”
The basement space is much larger than the space the market was using on Free Street, and includes a stage for entertainment and tables where people can sit and watch.
O’Malley, who was directing people to the market Saturday morning, said it exemplifies what the center is trying to create – a real community space.
“That’s what we are, after all, is a community center,” he said. “It’s in a neighborhood, people can walk here.”
For more information on the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market, go to portlandmainewintermarket.com.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Shoppers check out the raw cheese, yogurt and other offerings at Lauren Pignatello’s Swallowtail Farm stand, inside the Irish Heritage Center on Feb. 12. Swallowtail is one of about 15 farms participating in the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market.