By Jill Oestreicher Gross
Intermittent rain throughout the day did not stop hundreds of customers from walking through the inaugural Newburyport Farmers Market and buying out the stock of many of the local farmers selling there.
"I'm blown away," said David Hall, an organizer of the event and the owner of The Tannery Mall, where the outdoor market was held. Shari Wilkinson, who spearheaded the market, said its success exceeded her greatest expectations.
More than 20 vendors including local farmers, food purveyors and crafters participated in the four-hour event, which will run every Sunday until Oct. 25. Some vendors will have a booth weekly, while others will sell every other week.
Many vendors reported making trips back to the farm to pick up more produce, including Todd Wagner of Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls, N.H., who said he sold out his second shipment of strawberries and doughnuts in less than 20 minutes.
Among the most popular items: strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces and green garlic. Coffee was in such demand that Plum Island Coffee Roasters ran out of creamer.
"It's been a smashing success," said Wayne Capolupo, owner of Ferry Landing Farm in Newburyport. "The turnout is great in spite of the weather and the people are in a spending mood."
This is the first time Capolupo has sold produce directly to customers at a farmers market. He said giving the farmers a venue to competitively market their local products helps to preserve agriculture in the state.
Richard Rosenburgh of Middle Earth Farm in Amesbury sold at a farmers market at Market Square in Newburyport more than 10 years ago. He currently participates in farmers markets in the Boston area but said staying local is more rewarding.
"I'd like people in my town to know I'm here," he said.
Rebecca Wish Esche said she could really feel a sense of community surrounding the event as she left her Lime Street home yesterday morning to walk to the market and saw many of her neighbors also en route there with reusable bags, like she had.
Market visitors included people looking to stock their refrigerators, families curious to see 12-year-old Orren Fox's unusual chickens and Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm's Betty the sheep and Olive the rabbit, and those interested in hearing live music from jazz quartet Patch of Blue.
Renee Pappa of Newburyport said she was thrilled that the city now has a viable market.
"This is our first stop for shopping," said Pappa, who was buying honey and fresh vegetables. "I'm a Sunday shopper."
Sheila Grossman of West Newbury was one of many customers who received a $1 "Tannery Buck" with her market purchase. In an initiative sponsored by the Tannery's Hall to boost local spending, each week vendors will give out certificates for use at Tannery businesses. Grossman said she planned to use her credit at Jabberwocky Bookshop.
Tourist Rich LeDuc, visiting from Ware, said he saw the banner on Water Street advertising the market and planned to buy local strawberries. He also picked up a coffee and some cookies to nibble on.
"I like to take care of the local people," he said about why he is supportive of farmers markets, both here and in his part of the state.
The school-aged children selling T-shirts, painted cards and wallets made out of recycled paper at the "Another Seed in the Garden" booth also reported a financially successful day.
Baker Tracey Fortier of Blue Egg Baking Company said she loved able to talk directly to her customers and hear feedback about her products. She also reported that the sandwiches from Kellie Brook Farm of Greenland, N.H., were delicious.
"People are really happy to see this in Newburyport," Fortier said. "People are ready for it."
Vendors and customers repeatedly talked about the "happy vibe" of the market.
"Eat well and have fun," Dick Chase of Arrowhead Farm said, adding that he had a successful day. "That's what this is all about."
IF YOU GO
What: Newburyport Farmers Market featuring local farmers, food purveyors and artisans
When: Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Oct, 25
Where: The Tannery Mall parking lot, 50 Water St., Newburyport