On a hot Thursday afternoon in Hartford, a small crowd gathered on Broad Street to get outside and buy local products from the Billings Forge Farmers' Market, marking the first of many similar markets to open for the summer.
Although this market is year-round, Billings Forge Farmers' Market only moves outside at the end of May or beginning of June. This year, the official date for moving outside was June 6th, although nice weather prompted an impromptu event along the street, just a week before the market was scheduled on the green.
The market hosts a variety of vendors. "In the summer time we have approximately 15 vendors and then we have a rotating selection of craft vendors and other kinds of Hartford-based artists," said Amara Watkin-Anso, market master at Billings Forge.
The market, in its fifth season, just closed out its third winter market season.
"We have farms from all across the state, we have various vendors for cheese and milk, some produce vendors with assorted herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers," said Watkin-Anso, also describing some of the locally produced products, such as hot sauce and cupcakes.
One vendor, Katie Hoffman, sells Dragon's Blood Elixir, a sauce produced by her uncle, Doug Crane.
"They’re as many Connecticut ingredients as possible. There’s no chemicals or funny stuff, they are all natural," said Hoffman, who sells on behalf of the business at various markets across the state.
Why this market? Hoffman said that other vendors recommend certain markets, which the company then tries out.
Hoffman said that one of her favorite parts of selling at markets is getting to talk to customers and other vendors at the market.
Nearby, Catherine Rose of Rose's Berry Farm, is selling her locally grown products to a pair of friends who have come to the market for the day.
"Billings Forge is a great location, and the people are really nice," said Rose, who has been vending at the market since its beginning five years ago.
The farm has expanded its range of products in the past few years, according to Rose. This has been done by building off the fresh fruits and vegetables produced at the farm.
"I started making jam, and then I started making apple sauce, it’s just apples, no sugar, no additives or anything. [It adds] a lot more value, we always have leftover apples and peaches and berries, so it’s a nice way to use them up," said Rose, who was in the process of selling rhubarb to customer Judy Cody.
Judy Cody and her friend came to Billings Forge ready to shop.
"I’m going to make rhubarb sauce and mix it with some apple sauce," said Cody, who was reminded of her childhood, where she used to have the combination with toast before school each morning.
"I used to always make rhubarb pie, but I don’t make pies anymore, it’s a lot of work," said Cody, laughing as she stuffed her purchases into reusable bags.
"[We decided] to just come up for the day and it’s a nice thing to have on a Thursday. Most things are on weekends and it’s nice to come here during the week," said Cody, describing the lack of markets during the work week.
"There are things about this particular place and the variety of things that they sell here. So far, I’m seeing something [I want] at every stand that we are going to," said Cody.