Willimantic Farmers’ Market History
The story of the Willimantic Farmers’ Market parallels the history of agriculture in Connecticut. The Willimantic Farmers’ Market is the oldest in the state of Connecticut. It officially opened in 1976 on a budget of $1,500 in a Pop-up Tent on a Town-owned parcel of land under the auspices of a Community non-profit agency, the Windham Regional Community Council, with co-sponsorship of the Town of Windham and the Windham Chamber of Commerce. Staffing consisted of a dedicated Food and Nutrition Coordinator and a team of VISTA Volunteers afforded to the Project by the University of Connecticut’s Agricultural Department. The Market opened with some fifteen vendors selling produce, baked goods and craft items. All vendors had been vetted by farm and site visits to certify that all items sold were originally produced by the respective vendors, that their farm or place of business was local, and that they were in compliance with all applicable regulations of the State and local Department of Public Health, the State’s Department of Agriculture, and other regulatory bodies. Federal Food Stamp certification was also obtained.
The Willimantic Farmer’s Market Association was formed at this same time to be the Cooperative that would run the Market, establishing rules, fees and operating principles and procedures. To this day, the Willimantic Farmers’ Market Association still operates the Market.
In 1978, with $20,000 in funding provided by the Willimantic Community Development Agency, a Pavilion was built on a dedicated Town-owned parcel of land to house the Market. The market was housed at this location through the end of the 2015 Market season.
In 2016 the market moved from underneath this pavilion to open space on Jillson Square, just across the street. The move came as a result of the market expanding in size of the number of vendors participating at the market. The move has allowed for more vendors with diverse products to participate in the market as well as having increased foot traffic through the market and greater participation from the community.
In August of 2016 the market celebrated its 40th anniversary with a Farm to Table BBQ in the square. The event was not only a celebration but also a fundraiser to continue to improve this market, the longest continuous running farmers’ market in Connecticut!