More than veggies

MERRIMACK – Farmers markets started out as a way for farmers to bring seasonal produce directly to customers.

But now the markets have a lot more than tomatoes and corn for sale.

The Merrimack market, for example, offers soaps, jams and jellies, chocolate, kettle corn and hand-woven baskets. There is also wine from a New Hampshire winery and yarn, fleece and wool from a Sullivan County farm that raises Icelandic sheep.

At other booths there are dog biscuits, oils and vinegars and a natural pain relief product.

The market is seven-years-old and located on the Vault Storage property on Daniel Webster Highway, which provides more than enough room for the 31 vendors.

Bob McCabe is chairman of the Merrimack Agricultural Commission and manages the market.

"I think people are impressed" by the variety of things for sale, he said, although he is careful not to cross the line into items that would be more appropriate for a flea market. "It’s an agricultural-based market, but we take any hand-made or native product" from a 50-mile radius.

The market is held on Wednesdays, from 3 to 6 p.m., and on a recent visit there was a good crowd, despite the 90-plus degree heat.

When it’s available "people stand in line for lavender lemonade," made by J.L. Sweets of Hooksett, McCabe said.

A couple of years ago the market was down to only about eight vendors, so they made the choice to move, and the number of vendors tripled, he said. When field-grown tomatoes and sweet corn are ripe and the weather is good, the market can attract more than 400 people.

Bedford’s Farmers Market is open 3-6 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Elizabeth Seton Parish and it has 41 vendors signed up.

Besides selling seasonal produce and having many of the same products as the Merrimack market, the Bedford market also offers a wide range of prepared foods for hungry shoppers: pies, vegan ice cream, hummus, grain salads, cheeses, Italian dishes and Greek dishes.

Home-made dog treats aren’t unusual, but at the Bedford market there are also cat and horse treats for sale.

Milford’s market, in its 38th season, is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays in the Tractor Supply parking lot at Granite Town Plaza, and this year there are 15 vendors.

Along with vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruits, fish, meat and poultry, there is goat milk soap, doughnuts, scones, fudge, brownies, jams and yarns. Live music helps provide a festive atmosphere.

The Wilton Farmers Market, which moved this year from a downtown park to a parking lot, announced on Facebook that its last market was July 21, "due to lack of interest and attendance by both vendors and customers."