$300,000 still needed in fundraising effort for fledgling grocery, bakery, event space
By Isabel Wissner
BENNINGTON — A new Bennington Community Market aims to support local farmers while increasing the accessibility of fresh produce and goods to the region.
Aila West, assistant director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, says the market has big but achievable goals.
“Our mission is to support the local food system and to make healthy food accessible to everyone,” says West. “One of the main tenets of the market is to find ways to bring the cost of food down for those in our community who are experiencing food insecurity.”
One of the market’s point-people, West says, “This is a balancing act, as we are also committed to paying farmers what they need to ensure their sustainability, to paying our employees a living wage and to maintaining financial sustainability as a small, nonprofit grocery store.”
Shannon Barsotti, community development director for the town of Bennington, is spearheading the project, alongside West.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bennington is a food desert. Yet a recent survey shows that there are more than 250 farms and food producers in Bennington County.
The market will feature vegetables from True Love Farm and Mighty Food Farm in Shaftsbury; beef, pork and maple syrup from Hill Top Farm and maple skyr from Gammelgarden Creamery in Pownal; and milk, cheese and yogurt from Berle Farm in Hoosick, N.Y. There will be a number of products that have never been offered before in Bennington, like gelato from Wells’ Larson Farm and Creamery, and pastas and sauces from Trenchers Farmhouse of Lyndonville.
In addition to grocery fare, the market also will offer a commercial kitchen and bakery with in-store seating and the possibility of expanding into an event space.
The nonprofit market is planning partnerships with local organizations by offering gift cards distributed at local food pantries and working with farms to provide discounted prices for surplus seasonal products.
A truly community-supported grocery store, the project is underway thanks to the generous donations from community members and businesses. The market is halfway to its fundraising goal of $600,000, which is needed to offset commercial kitchen equipment, construction, initial operating costs and the purchase of retail goods.
“While we were all greatly saddened by the closing of the Krijnen Bakery last year, a silver lining was that the market was able to purchase all of their equipment with the help of a Bennington town loan; the spirit of the bakery will live on in our community,” says Barsotti.
Visit the market at 239 Main St. in the former LaFlamme’s furniture store when doors are scheduled to open. To donate, visit benningtonmarket.com/donate.
Isabel Wissner — has been shooting from the hip since the age of 4, after receiving a Polaroid camera from her grandma. She is the archivist of her family’s vast collection of exploitative and unflattering photos.