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Westport Farmers' Market Kicks Off Summer Season

WESTPORT, Conn. – Summer has unofficially arrived in Westport, with the kick off of the Westport Farmers’ Market on Thursday. More than two dozen vendors converged on the Imperial Avenue commuter lot (adjacent to the Westport Young Women's League ) to sample a bit of the coming season, reinstating the market as a local hub of fresh food and community education.

For 2012, the market is redoubling efforts to reconnect people with the food they eat and the people who grow it, encouraging shoppers to “live local,” and touting the “real farmers” and “real food” available at the market.

A new addition to the market this year is a community education booth, offering information and tips designed to help curious customers make healthier choices for their families. One of the hot topics at this year’s market will be to promote education about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Several vendors proudly displayed “GMO-Free” signs at their stalls.

“We’re really trying to be a resource for the community,” says Lori Cochran-Dougall, WFM Director. “Consumers are very interested in learning more about GMOs, what they are and what the potential impact is, so we want to be one of the places people come to get educated about this.”

Not all WFM vendors are GMO-free, but Cochran-Dougall cites interest across the board. “We are all in the process of learning about this,” she says. “And most vendors are very interested. I’ve had several say to me, ‘What if I can get up to 80 or 90 percent GMO-free?’ We’re not guaranteeing anything, but it’s all steps in the right direction.”

Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm echoed Cochran-Dougall’s sentiments. “It was a learning curve for me, too,” says Popp. “We’ve always been a GMO-free farm because we’re organic. But I’ve learned a lot along the way. I think it’s awesome [that the WFM is making efforts educate people about GMOs]. Once you know what’s going on with our food supply, you just want to do something about it. But if you don’t know, how can you change it?”

In addition to this kind of education, the WFM will also offer weekly chef demonstrations, toddler yoga workshops and sustaining memberships. “Friends of the Market” can pay $40 for an annual membership to enjoy weekly discounts from vendors and receive a new, roomy tote bag.

“I always feel very humbled on opening day,” says Cochran-Dougall. “The support of the community is so overwhelming. We don’t have a big budget. We don’t advertise. So, sure, there’s always a little part of me that wonders if people will remember and come back. But they’re always here, just waiting for us to open. It’s really a wonderful community.”

For regular updates on the Westport Farmers' Market, check the WFM Facebook page.

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