July 27, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: The city with the cool market
By†Jeff Rapsis

Nashua is a nice city with a good quality of life.

But ever since the closing of Bensonís Wild Animal Farm in Hudson, the area lacks an attraction to set it apart and give it an identity.

Thatís where a farmersí market can come in. With interest rising in locally grown food, such markets are popping up all over New Hampshire, in communities large and small.

And yes, the Gate City already has oneóa modest every-Tuesday-afternoon operation out by St. Louis de Gonzague Church on West Hollis Street. Itís run by Drema and Pat Cady, and they do a nice job. It fills a neighborhood need, and I hope it continues.

But Nashua, as the stateís second largest city and the urban center of a big part of southern New Hampshire, is not even beginning to tap the potential that a vibrant farmersí market could offer.

It farmersí market could be a lot more than a place to buy vegetables. It could be a community gathering point that would give people a reason to come downtown.

Done right, it could act as an attraction. It could provide our community a unique identity, a sense of place, and a point of difference that separates Nashua from other cities that already have established identities.

Portsmouth? Thatís the city with the cool art galleries and live local music. Manchester? Thatís the city with the sports teams and the bars and a Ben & Jerry's.

And Nashua? Thatís the city with the really cool farmersí marketóthe one you absolutely have to check out because itís better than anything else out there. If youíre a vendor, you must be a part of it. And if youíre a consumer anywhere in southern New Hampshire, itís worth a drive at least once a week, especially on Thursdays when they have live music and animals and...

But Iím getting ahead of myself. We have to start small. Efforts are already underway to put Nashua on the farmersí market map for next season, which is great. Nashua certainly has the population to support a good-sized farmersí market, and itís about time we established ourselves on the circuit. At Hippo, weíll promote it any way we can.

Itís important, however, that we enter into this process with the aim of going beyond the ordinary. Farmersí markets are everywhere now, and some of them are quite good. Nashua will not make the most of the opportunity by being satisfied to imitate what everyone else is already doing.

Instead, we must have vision and creativity that takes us beyond the average and in time makes the Nashua Farmersí Market hands-down the best.

It should be downtown, ideally within easy walking distance of Main Street and the millyard, so it showcases the whole city. Also, it should eventually be open more than once a week, which would allow us to be more competitive with other markets.

And it must go beyond selling vegetables. It needs to include animals, entertainment, other kinds of local businesses, a food education component, restaurants and... oops, there I go again.

To get a sense of the possibilities, Iím taking a trip to the Portland Public Market in Portland, Maine, on Saturday, Aug. 5. Itís a field trip to see whatís possible in a city that, by the way, has a smaller population that Nashua.

If youíd like to join in, call or send an e-mail to jrapsis@hippopress.com


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