Before the vendors at Shelburne Farmers Market packed up their tents for the final Saturday of the market for 2019, they gathered on the parade ground to pay tribute to the man who has kept the market running smoothly for the entire 14 years of its history: Tod Whitaker.
When the Shelburne Business and Professional Association agreed in 2006 that a Farmers Market would be a valuable addition to the economic profile of Shelburne, the first challenge was to find a person with the organizational and public relations talents to make it happen. Whitaker, who was the manager of The Terraces at that time, volunteered.
While managing the Farmers Market might appear to be a seasonal summertime project, it is virtually a year-round commitment. There are meetings with other Farmers Market managers and the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association (NOFA), who provide a statewide coordination service to discuss mutually important topics like Crop Cash and SNAP benefits. The season begins before the snow leaves Vermont, contacting vendors to see who will be returning for another year, finding the vendors to fill any available spots, always with the proportions that have helped to ensure that Shelburne Market is truly a “farmers” market: 50% agricultural vendors, 30% prepared food vendors and 20% crafters.
When the market opens, the pace picks up for the manager with regular contact with vendors, managing substitutes for any who need to miss a week. On Friday afternoon, the manager marks the booth locations on the Parade Ground and sets up signs to catch the attention of locals and passing tourists alike. On Saturday from very early to mid-afternoon, the manager is answering questions from vendors or shoppers, supervising the SBPA tent where the popular $5 wooden tokens can be purchased, and keeping an eye on the the crowd that comes every week to find quality produce and chat with their neighbors.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, the vendors gathered to express their gratitude for Whitaker’s role in earning the Shelburne Farmers Market kudos for boosting the Shelburne economy. They were grateful to Whitaker and the market for providing a resource for excellent products from farmers, bakers, crafters, cheese makers, distillers and many more. Whitaker turned the focus to the vendors, who he said were, “the heart and soul of the market.” He emphasized that the success of the market is the result of the hard work and long-range planning of vendors. He said they put such energy into producing their excellent goods, and noted their commitment to regular attendance throughout the season, creating beautiful and accessible displays, and providing friendly service to the shopping public.
“You have made this market what it is – something that makes us all proud,” Whitaker said.