BENNINGTON — The Bennington Farmers Market hosted its first winter market in a new, more spacious location on Saturday.
Typically, the market moves inside the First Baptist Church during the first weekend in November. With the threat of the coronavirus, Bennington Farmers Market manager Daniel Strohl said the market needed to find a more spacious venue to accommodate all of its vendors and allow distance between each one.
This year, the winter market is being held at the former Bennington High School building at 650 Main St. It is one of only a handful of winter farmers markets taking place across the state this year, according to Strohl.
The building is still under construction after Christopher Gilbert, of Red Hook, N.Y., and Dorset purchased it in March.
The former cafeteria, which is an immediate right after entering the building through the main entrance, serves as the new host for market. The old cafeteria is currently the only functioning room in the entire building. Gilbert had an idea to transform that part of the building into a community space, a perfect fit for the farmers market looking for a new home.
“I’m really glad we’re here,” said Emily Gold, who serves as the president of the Bennington Farmers Market Board of Directors. “I’m glad we found a location that feels safe to our vendors and customers.”
Gold said Southern Vermont Medical Center toured the facility and gave tips on how to create the safest environment possible. Among the recommendations: Keep doors and windows open for ventilation and have one-way traffic as much as possible.
Gold sees this as a win-win. It gives the market a safe place to host its winter events, and allows a building to once again serve a purpose for the community.
“Another really great thing is that this building is going to get used,” Gold said. “The owner put a lot of time and energy into making it into more of a community kind of space, and that’s super helpful to us.”
The total number of vendors each week fluctuates, according to Strohl, but the winter farmers market typically sees around 12-15 unique vendors who sell a wide variety of goods. Strohl said that if the market stayed at the church this winter, the number of vendors would have been drastically cut to ensure the appropriate space between each one. The cafeteria offers plenty of space for customers to walk freely and each vendor to be spaced apart from each other. Peter Hopkins, the owner of Hoppy Valley Farm in Pownal, was one of many vendors at the market on Saturday. Hopkins said he was a little nervous about whether or not there would be a winter market this year.
“There was some concern, but as we got farther along and understood that there’s all these good people out here practicing social responsibility, just glad it went ahead,” Hopkins said.
“If folks can go to Walmart, if they can go do the drugstore, if they can go here, there and everywhere, then they can come in here and feel safe,” Hopkins said.
Barbara Schatz, of North Bennington, is glad the farmers market found a way to be open this winter. Schatz is a regular customer during both the summer and winter markets.
“I’m happy that they did this,” Schatz said. “I’m glad that this building is being renovated.”
The farmers market is also accepting curbside orders for those who do not wish to shop inside.
Strohl believes that 650 Main St. could become the new permanent home for the Bennington Winter Farmers Market.
“There’s plenty of room to grow with the school,” Strohl said. “We see it as a long-term solution for the market, even after the pandemic.”
The next market will take place on Dec. 5. The winter market takes place every other Saturday and will run until April 17.