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Deep Dive into Clasky Common Farmers Market

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols of Backyard Garden.

Last week, I wrote about the growing, informal urban agriculture network springing to life in New Bedford. This week, we’re looking at one piece of it – the terrific, weekly Saturday morning Farmers Market at Clasky Common Park.

The Coastal Foodshed Farmers Market at Clasky Common is just a few blocks down Pleasant Street from Groundwork!  (which is located at 1213 Purchase Street.) It’s been a weekend pick for several summers now for most members, like myself – and more summers for others. This farmers market was the city’s first, launched some years ago now. Like all things, it’s evolved over time.

Drew of Silver City Acres.

This year’s crop is especially interesting. As I noted last week, newcomers Backyard Garden have joined the line-up of stands at the market, along with Silver City Acres. Sampson Farm – which brought amazing strawberries and their signature potatoes to the market last week – is a hold-over from last season.

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols, the Backyard Garden team, tell me that they lease their land out in Westport. They get acreage and the landowners receive a tax credit for agriculture. They work the land well; their produce is stupendous.

Marisa and Ian tell me something else very interesting: They enjoy being at the New Bedford Farmers Market more than others in the region, by far.

They say people actually shop for food here, and that makes them feel purposeful. At other locations – which won’t be disclosed – they feel shoppers purchase little of actual purpose, but instead stop by more as a social rather than dietary function.

That may be because Coastal Foodshed has been progressive in administering the markets. Also, New Bedford Farmers Markets are indeed necessary, as some areas of the city are severely under-served when it comes to fresh produce.

Sampson’s Potatoes are a Clasky Common staple.

That’s certainly the case with Clasky Common. It’s at the eastern edge of a large, residential swath of the city which doesn’t see a supermarket until Hathaway Road to the north, Down to Earth way out west by Rockdale Avenue, and Price-Rite off Rt. 18 heading south.

To meet the need, Coastal Foodshed is launching something new this summer: pop-up farmers markets around the city. They will begin with a “soft launch” in June and then follow this schedule beginning in July:

Tuesdays on the corner of Brock Ave/Warren St. (near Tedeschi’s) 4:00-6:00 pm

Wednesdays at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School 3:30-5:30pm

Saturdays at Buttonwood Park Zoo, inside parking lot area 11:00-1:00pm

“We will also be doing Popup events such as festivals and fairs,” they write to me. “All produce will be sourced from local Southcoast farmers! There will be cooking demos on site throughout the month and health screenings as well. We do plan to expand to more locations in the future but are working out all of the logistics this year.”

Also, they have created Farm Share program, where you can order online for pick-up each Wednesday at Carlos Pacheco School, on Mt. Pleasant Street just north of Sawyer. Find details here.

Back at Clasky Common Farmers Market, you can feel a special vibe all its own developing.

It’s always had the fact that it is New Bedford’s most graceful park going for it. Now, Groundwork! is part of the neighborhood. An expansion of the Veterans Transition House is in the works, mid-way between the coworking facility and the market. There’s just more vitality – and interest – in the neighborhood.

Zekiah Lucas and his Yamaha.

Maybe that caught the eye – or rather, ear – of busker Zekiah Lucas. He arrived at the Common Clasky Farmers Market this past Saturday, new acoustic Yamaha in hand, and provided the soundtrack for the day.

He tells me that he plans to stop by about every other week at Clasky Common. (The enigmatic Lucas also makes appearances at the Brooklawn Park Farmers Market on Monday afternoons, as well as locations throughout the city, as the spirit moves.)

It’s a nice touch and adds to the already easy-going ambiance of Saturday mornings at Clasky Common.

Stop by and do some food shopping or just hang out in the park on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. every week to soak it all up.

Steven Froias