WOODSTOCK, Vt. — In a northern New England village, the speed limit is 25 miles per hour and everyone follows the law strictly.
“In Woodstock we take things real slow,” said Will Treff, a chef from Boston who was spending two nights in Vermont to escape the “noise of the city.”
Specifically, Treff came to Vermont to shop at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market, an indoor, year-round market offering local produce, meat, artisanal cheese, and coffee just one mile west of the town center off US Route 4.
“I always grab protein first,” Treff, 23, said as he strolled through the cramped aisles. “But whenever I am up here, I always go to this market first for produce and can grab any kind of cut later.”
The market, a wood palette barn, has been open since 1992 and was built next to the Ottauquechee River, where ice melts into clear water as spring quickly approaches. A singular line of traffic flows into the parking lot, turning left off West Woodstock Road.
As the sliding double doors part, the scent of cinnamon rolls delicately looms above. Black garden buckets overflow with bundles of orange, pink, white, and purple tulips placed on top of wooden crates next to arrangements of lilies and roses. Produce is off to the left, and packaged goods like chips, crackers, and cookies are to the right. Three glass cases keeping refrigerated items fresh are the first thing that welcomes a shopper in.
Crouched behind piles of potatoes and carefully placed pyramids of onions, Jada Haas digs through crusted cardboard boxes to restock russet, fingerling, and red potatoes.
Simply dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, her blond hair loosely pulled back behind her head with strands falling into her face, Haas has been working at the market since November.
“People care about what I do,” she said, gently placing potato on top of potato.
Haas, 28, is a first-time business owner and operates a farm in Windsor, Vt., where she grows beans that are sold in the market. “I needed a town job in the off season,” she said.
She values her job at the market for the connection to workers and shoppers.
“Everyone is so nice, and there is a sense of group ownership over the market and that translates into the clientele,” she said. “It’s for them and from people who work and live here. It actually does replenish our local economy.”
In front of the displays of sushi grade tuna and regionally caught Haddock, past the rows of locally raised and butchered whole chickens, and next to beef cut into filets, rib-eyes, and loins, a small crowd gathers at 9:35 am.
Standing, patiently waiting for their lattes, bagels, or one of the 21 different kinds of sandwiches available, locals embrace in hugs, Sunday morning greetings, and quick hellos.
Bob Marley’s Jamaican reggae streams over the speakers, changing to mellow ’50s pop and back again to coastal country music, with lyrics about beach trips and easy living.
Another chest-high glass case is full of cookies the size of softballs, pies glistening in dried sugar, coconut macaroons, pumpernickel, cinnamon, and everything bagels along with countless flavors of scones.
“Well, we have some mini pies on sale, and your options are mixed berry, mixed berry, or mixed berry,” Aubrey Madison says with a tone that is received more as comical than sarcastic. “So mixed berry it is,” she said and turns to box up a mini pie while dancing and singing loudly to “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
The boisterous Madison has been working at the market for eight months and claims she is “not a vet by any means,” as she approaches her second summer with the company.
“The market has a good vibe, a nice vibe,” said Madison, 25. Her right nostril is pierced with a small silver hoop and her bleached blonde hair, a stark contrast to her olive skin, fades into dark black roots that peek out from her black Carhartt beanie.
Madison was drawn to the market because she wanted to be around good food and was surprised how knowledgeable the staff was.
The market isn’t just a place where food is sold. The staff focuses on being approachable and teaching the community about the importance of knowing where their food comes from.
The market also hosts events where vendors and farmers come to showcase their products and lend their knowledge to shoppers.
“Everyone is a foodie, but not a pretentious foodie,” Madison said as she walks out from behind the counter to explain to a customer the different varieties of drip coffee served today. “Everyone loves local food, and we’re always willing to help with questions whether it’s about coffee, meat, or produce.”
Tucked behind the bakery counter top, past the five canisters of coffee, bent over an open case of cheese, Treff, the Boston chef, picks up a single wedge.
“That just looks like a cool cheddar,” he said about the cheese from Cahill Farms marbled with porter ale.
Treff spent 30 minutes meticulously scanning the aisles of the 2,802 square foot market, picking up produce, squeezing for ripeness and smelling for freshness. His shopping basket consists of a dozen organic eggs, fingerling potatoes, a bag of brussels sprouts, a twist-tie bunch of rainbow chard, and a pound of thin, butcher-paper wrapped flank steak.
“I need alliums,” he said, quickly darting back to the produce section. “Onions, chives, garlic, all that family.”
He returns with a head of garlic and one medium-sized yellow onion.
Before reaching the check out counter, past the wall of multiple maple syrup varieties, a smartly placed display of Easter candy from Stowe stops Treff.
Individually wrapped chocolate bunnies and clear cellophane bags of mixed jelly beans tempt him but he resists, this time.
Lindsey Barrett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.