On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, we sat down with Sally Frank, the founder of what has become the Melrose Farmers’ Market and Julie Unger, the current market manager.
In 1994, Sally proposed the idea of bringing fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables to Melrose. She coordinated with then Alderman Mike Festa, to obtain use of the parking lot behind city hall as the first venue. The original market had about five farms and the community was enthusiastic from the start. In Sally’s vision, a key component of the market was charitable. Sally arranged for leftover food to be donated to the homeless. The Market has continued in this spirit by accepting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and HIP (Healthy Incentives Program) and working with local charitable foundations to fund a matching program. Melrose Bank was the first to sign on, and others have joined since. When asked to reflect on the market today, Sally said, ‘I love to shop at the market. I am so gratified to see that it has continued and grown. I’m so pleased to see the SNAP and HIP programs.’
Over the years, Sally’s work was carried on by Heather MacDonald and Cindy Chabot. In 2016, the market adopted a more formal govenance structure with a board of directors. In 2017, the board hired Julie Unger to carry on the work of the prior market managers. We asked Julie for her vision of the market. Julie stated, ‘I want to continue to develop the market as a community resource and make fresh, locally sourced food available to all residents. The market is possible because of the support from the city, the business community, our fabulous vendors, and a dedicated group of volunteers and market goers.’ This year the market will feature four local veggie Massachusetts farms that farm organically without certification, 30 weekly vendors, and over 60 rotating vendors throughout the summer.
Julie shared some highlights for the upcoming 2018 season: