In the spring of 2020, Winchester Farmers Market was given the go ahead by the town to hold the market. Protocols would be put in place to make this weekly outdoor event safe in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Market manager Fred Yen knew he needed help to make it happen. He contacted the “Connect and Commit” coordinator at the high school to ask if some kids might be interested.
Claire English remembers getting the email from Connect and Commit and noting that working at the farmers market would count as volunteer hours on college applications. Colleges want to see that kids have been involved in their community.
Others who responded were Lily Cerami, Ava Huppe, Elise Molloy, and Ellen Stewart. Another High School student, Leo Castro was already working at the market. In all, eight high school volunteers showed up in mid-June at the first market of the 2020 season. They and others came every week during the farmers market season and did the physical work of setting up canopies for the Chamber of Commerce, musicians, Winchester Artist Network, market manager, and community organizations. They also strung power cords and put up Covid-related signage, cones, and hand-washing stations. At the end of the day, they took it all down again and collected the trash.
Claire said that in the heat of the Covid pandemic when everyone was isolated from each other, it was a way for her and her friends to spend time together. Because the market was outdoors, they felt safe. And it connected the high schoolers to the community, introducing them to town events, local businesses, and town organizations.
An additional benefit was, when vendors needed additional staff, they approached the students, and several were hired. Claire worked with Del Sur empanadas. Lily worked for Amir’s Natural Foods. At different times, they both worked at the EL Silvia produce stand. Another volunteer, Anna, worked for Drew’s Stews.
Leo and Lily are interns with the SNAP program this year. Leo has done that for two summers now. And, he said, the farmers market got him involved with what is going on in Winchester: “The market is a community. It has been a great way to meet people and expand my social circle.” Other student volunteers felt the same. Lily said, “Now I recognize people (when I see them during the week).”
The WHS Farmers Market Club is Formed
At the end of the 2020 summer, some of the student volunteers decided to keep going and form a high school farmers market club. Claire said she felt that starting the club would demonstrate their initiative and leadership to colleges and/or employers. The High School club members have focused their creative energies on activities to raise money for Anna’s Fund—the fund that boosts the purchasing power of SNAP customers. Lily remembers that their first idea was to have a bake sale, but with the Covid pandemic, it didn’t seem like a good way to go. Instead, they planned a walkathon and put posters downtown to advertise it. They raised a thousand dollars! They also had meetings to decorate tee shirts to sell at the Market. In one way or another, about thirty high school kids are actively engaged in the club.
Fred described the kids who founded the club as self-starters, competent, and motivated. He was, and continues to be, grateful for the volunteers’ consistent help in setting up the market early every Saturday and taking it down in the heat of the afternoon after the market closes.
All the founding club members are seniors this year, so they are looking for younger students who can continue the club after they graduate.