Every season is farmers market season
From 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, vendors selling crafts, flowers, produce, baked goods, eggs, meat, dairy and other goods fill the large concrete-floored room that had been the drill hall when the building was used by the New Hampshire National Guard.
The town acquired the building from the Guard two years ago and opened it as a community center late last year on the stipulation no taxpayer dollars would go toward funding its use.
"We're planning on going through the whole season. We started on Oct. 17 and we're planning to go all the way through May," said Christine Fennell of Peterborough, one of the organizers.
Fennell, who sells homemade sweaters, said vendors are from both the Peterborough Farmers Market that holds a Wednesday afternoon market in Depot Park downtown during the summer and the Fresh Chicks Markets that holds a Monday farmers market on a green at the Monadnock Community Hospital campus.
"We have so many venders we have a waiting list, so when we have an opening, we call a vendor on the waiting list and they fill the spot. So we have new people coming in and out all the time," Fennell said.
Wednesday afternoon, vendors said the market is catching as the word spreads.
"I think it's a great idea and I'm going to come back next week and do some Christmas shopping," said customer Janice Yoe of Dublin, who normally shops at the Fresh Chicks Market during the summer.
Bakery 42 owner Cynthia Crockett of Antrim was selling her breads and cookies to many of her regular summer customers.
"This is the first year for this one to become a winter market," she said. "It's been a little bit of a slow start, but people are still remembering that we are still going."
Selling her salad mix and other fresh produce as well as her wool and hand-knitted items, Temple farmer Jennifer Connolly of Fiber Dreams Farm said she plans to have produce all winter long for her shoppers, including market regular Maureen Cohen of Peterborough.
"It's so important to shop here. Honestly, you basically can get everything you need," Cohen said. "I go to the grocery store for oranges and bananas, things you can't get here. I like to support local farmers, and it's fresher. And we get winter-keeping vegetables now, and you get what's in season so you always know it's fresh. I come every week so I get milk, yogurt, eggs, bread, jam, meat, cheese, baked goods, you can get everything, it's amazing."
The winter market is one of many new activities cropping up at the community center, which has been open only a year.
Recreation department director Jeff King said several sports, including lacrosse and a new archery program, are being held at the center, as well as weekly senior lunches and monthly Cub Scout meetings. The center is also being rented out for birthday parties and other events.
Programming has picked up so much, he has ordered signs for better visibility and is planning to add lighting to the building for the programs, which mostly take place at night.
King said the recreation department is close to completing a deal with New England College in Henniker to purchase the college's old gym floor, which has been removed and is sitting in storage.
"It's going to be a very good price for the quality of the floor," King said. "A brand new floor would cost us at least $130,000, and we're getting it for way less than that."
King said he is looking for volunteers to help install the floor this winter. The floor with absorption material beneath it would convert the concrete-floored drill hall into a proper gymnasium.
The community center is also working to raise $140,000 to add a commercial kitchen; $26,000 has already been raised, including a $15,000 donation from the Arthur and Dolores Daniels Foundation.
King said he is hoping a $70,000 grant from the NH Charitable Foundation will be awarded to the center to fund half of the commercial kitchen cost. The new floor and a commercial kitchen would make the hall easier to rent as well as add new uses that in turn would generate the revenue needed to maintain and grow the young community center, he said.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at email@example.com.