HandEYE Story on Artisans/Farmers' Markets

002J.P. making a Traditional Broom!

This article was written by Sarah Buttenwieset for the HandEYE magazine. Check out the beautifully written story on line.

JP and Marian Welch have been working on their Worthington, Massachusetts land—Justamere Tree Farm—since 1982.  According to Marian Welch, farmers’ markets represent much more than an opportunity to sell their goods. She says, “We get to educate people about what we do. People don’t necessarily understand how much work goes into the products we sell. Some people don’t realize we make the syrup or that people live the way we do. It’s a great thing to help them ‘get it.’”

The brooms the couple sells absolutely have a story. Welch explains, “We get handles for the brooms from the woods. The fiber we use comes from a broomcorn plant. This fiber doesn’t break and dust doesn’t get up into the brooms the way synthetic brooms do.” If you’re standing at the farmers’ market when she tells this story, she knows you’re also admiring the craftsmanship that so obviously went into creation of the object you are regarding. She says, “We tell people to pick the broom up and try it. Our brooms feel good in your hands.”

The brooms function extremely well, says Welch, who then tells this particular story: “One woman came and bought a broom. She said it was so beautiful she couldn’t bear to use it and she hung it up where she could admire it. Eventually, the broom in the closet fell apart and she had to grab ours. She came back and told us she’d never had a better broom in her life. From then on, she used and displayed her broom.”

It’s taken some time to find the right farmers’ markets for their products. Welch says, “You have to hang on at the beginning. It takes time for a farmers’ market to catch on.” One of the markets—Northampton Massachusetts’ Tuesday Market—has almost doubled its customer base in its third year.

While the couple has exhibited at crafts fairs, Welch says, “We’re doing more farmers’ markets than crafts fairs. It feels as if ‘our crowd’ comes to farmers’ markets, by which I mean that the people attracted to our work appreciate our goods’ beauty—and functionality. We fit better where the emphasis upon what’s being sold are goods to be used or consumed, rather than simply admired.”

Welch thinks that people who come to farmers’ markets have an interest in “the farmers’ lifestyle.” She suggests, “There’s a romance people have or imagine about farming, and that’s actually part of what you’re selling along with the products.”