The Melrose Farmer’s Market was started in 1994 by Sally Frank. Sally wanted to be able to buy fresh local corn without driving large distances. The Melrose Farmer’s Market is one of the longest running farmer’s market in the area. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has record of the number of farmers markets going back to 1977 where 7 markets existed. In 1994 there were 79 farmers markets in Massachusetts. Now, in 2015, there are nearly 300 farmers’ markets – more than triple the number since Sally began – she was clearly at the start of the farmers’ market upward booming curve.
Sally passed the baton to Heather Macdonald in 2005. The then and now Mayor of Melrose, Bob Dolan, dedicated the farmer’s market to Sally Frank in October 2005. Thus the new name of the market became the Sally Frank’s Farmers’ Market.
Heather volunteered to run the market on her own from 2005 until 2010. In 2010, 2 new people introduced themselves to Heather asking if they could help grow the market and make it more accessible to all people in Melrose. Renee Tennison, who grew up in Melrose and Cindy Chabot, who has lived in Melrose since 1998, have helped to increase the number of farmers, make the time of the market more available for people who work outside the city during the day, and look for a larger location that will allow the market to grow.
The farmers’ market had been behind City Hall running from 10am to 3pm from 1994 until 2010. The time is convenient for people who work downtown or in Melrose during the day. However, it is impossible for a large chunk of people who work outside of Melrose during the day to be able to go to the market.
In 2010, Rene started a Friday market from 4-8pm on front lawn of the First United Methodist Church. In 2011, we combined the Thursday and Friday market to Thursdays, taking it out of the small, dirty parking lot behind City Hall to the front lawn of the First United Methodist Church from 2-7pm.
The location of the farmers’ market has turned out to be a larger challenge than expected. We searched for a place that is level, accessible for both market goers and farmers setting up, parking for both market-goers and farmers, a central location convenient to Melrose residents, and electricity for vendors and lighting as the season moves into fall. A temporary location in 2011 by the generosity of the First United Methodist Church was on Main St. on Fridays on their front lawn. After an exhaustive search and hours of effort by both the Park’s Dept., Aldermen and volunteers, the Park Commission granted the farmers market permission to use Bowden Park at the Cedar Park train station for the 2012 season. In addition, the Melrose Police Dept. granted the farmers market permission to be able to use the commuter rail parking lot for parking. McHale Tile & Carpet allowed the market to use their box truck behind Nails by Bonnie, and Nails by Bonnie and Garniss Market allowed use of their restrooms for vendors and volunteers. In 2013, the City gave the farmers market a parking space for a container to store the farmers market tents, table, chairs and all the other stuff that keeps the market going.
Sally still comes to the farmers’ market to buy her produce. The challenge to grow the farmers’ market in Melrose has proven to be much more complicated than any of us expected. But we now have a great market in a fantastic location loved by many people in Melrose and surrounding communities.
In 2013, the farmers market branched out further to do a first ever pre-Thanksgiving farmers market. It was a huge success. In 2014, Wakefield and Melrose joined forces for a monthly winter indoor farmers market inside Memorial Hall from November to April – the November and December was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the other months were on the 3rd Sunday, from 12-4pm.