A Farmers' Market History

Farmers' Markets Historical Research Information (Updated July 22, 2008)


1643: The General Court of Connecticut required that Hartford establish a public market. The "great country Store" was open all day on Wednesdays at the southeast corner of Meeting House Yard, the Old State House site. The market was for all manner of commodities that shall be bought in, and for cattle, or any merchandise whosoever."

1700: 94 percent of the US population was engaged in agriculture.

1811: A by-law regulating the Market-house on State-house Square and the new one being built over the Little River, west of the Bridge. It called for every day, save Sunday, to be a market day in the following areas: Connecticut River on the east, the Little-River on the south, Maiden-Lane and Back-Street on the west, and on the north Morgan-Street and that part of Main Street which was between Back Street and Morgan Street and the part of Main Street which laid between the north bank of the Little-River and the South Meeting-House. The Bridge Market was upon the arch on the west side of the Main Street Bridge. This served as a traffic obstruction and generated the need for a larger, more permanent city market.

1828: A new city hall is built and a provision is made for a public market to operate below the City Hall, corner of Temple and Kingsley. It appears to have operated from 1828 to about 1879 when City Hall was moved to Main Street, which replaces Meeting House Yard Market.

1829: Market Street formerly Dorr Street is named after the Town Market

1835: Push cart markets still located at Front Street and Windsor at least for the past 15 years. A Hartford Times article dated August 28, 1835 states shows a decrease in the number of push carts marketers by 218 between /832 and /835.

1836: Market on the Boulevard, this is the same market as Huckster's of 1912 and the market on Boulevard in 1932. It's operation was not well documented. If it operated continuously, it would be the oldest continuously operating market.

1838: Washington Market, located at Main and Trumbull, begins and operates until 1870s.

1839: The Franklin Market, located at Main and Arch, was added to the city. This market operated consistently until 1855. It then disappeared for a period of time and reappeared in 1900 for only one year.

1840: Railroads impact Connecticut Agriculture "While railroads were of great assistance to the Connecticut farmer they forced him to change his crops 'and his methods. Rail transportation caused the bulk of agriculture production to move from the East to the newly settled West." (Highlights of Connecticut Agriculture, Rudy J. Favretti, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of Connecticut Published by Cooperative extension Services, 1976, p.30)

1842: The Hartford Agriculture Society was started. The society promoted more uniform and better methods of agriculture and created a market for their production. Most of the focus was on new machinery and livestock.

1844: Asylum Street Market opened at Asylum and Trumbull. There are now four markets run by the City operating: Asylum, Franklin, Washington and City Hall. There also are markets at Front and at Boulevard.

1846 to 1856: These ten years bring much change to markets. There is an increase in the number of markets between 1846 to 1852. The increase is largely comprised of unaffiliated local growers but some bigger markets such as the Phoenix, the River and the Starkweather do exists. Over the next year, 1850 to 1851, these three large markets disappear and the growers open their own permanent Stores. This is a continuing trend for the next 20 years. This trend produced at least two long-standing produce companies that still exist today, Fowlers and A. Gordon Fruit.
Rail transportation, the Civil War and industry impact what is grown and how it is sold. Because so many people moved from the country to the city, permanent stores took hold. This caused farmers to alter the way they sold their produce. These markets also had bigger purchasing power than a single farmer. The stores could afford to transport crops that grew well in certain areas of the country and to just buy products that grew well here or couldn't be transported. So farmers began raising dairy products and produce such as onions because dairy didn't transport well and onions grew well here.
Another path farmers took was to sell produce on the way into these markets or on what they called "milk routes." A milk route was developed mostly in the city and provided residents with fresh milk. "Vegetables and fruit were sometimes sold from the milk delivery. Customers would ask farmers to bring other products too, such as cordwood, meat or lard. This type of farm market sustained Connecticut farmers for many years and every Connecticut manufacturing center was surrounded by these farms." (Favretti, p34)

1879: All public market documentation disappears except for three pictures, two of Boulevard in 1912 and 1932 and one of Colt Park Market estimated to be in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

1920: August 17, 1920 the Hartford Public Market opened. It had 42 stalls and was located at 31 Connecticut Blvd. and the corner of Ferry. The Broad Street Public Market also opens. This market only lasts two seasons, including 1920.

1922: A public market is established at 133 State St.

1925: The City Hall Market reemerges, but is at 42 State St. and disappears again within the year.

1920s: The need for a large permanent outlet for farm products was realized as early as the 1920s when farmers began talking to Connecticut Agriculture College representatives about their marketing problems. Cooperatives and associations gain strength during this time. A rapid change in technology forces small farmers to band together to make a place for themselves in the market. This is visible mostly in dairy farms which saw that fewer hands were needed to increase production at least two-fold. Eastern States Farmers Exchange is created. It was a marketing association for New England farmers. This exchange, which included orchards, developed a marketing logo for each state informing customers of the farm's membership with The Exchange

1932: Hartford Farmers' Market at Boulevard
From this time until the late 1970s markets were scarce if they existed at all. Most farmers seem to remember nearly everyone having their own garden and relying on city markets for staple goods. Some talk about people selling their surplus in their front yards.

1939-1941: The Connecticut Marketing Authority, which would come to build the Regional Market, was established and received $50,000 to study the problems of the farmers and develop a solution. In 1943 they were received an additional $200,000 to complete the study, which was halted until after the war in 1945.

1945: The land for the market, 24 acres, was purchased from the Colt Manufacturing Co. for $26,000. The Metropolitan District sold seven acres to the market for one dollar and the City of Hartford gave the market an additional 10 acres.

1950: Emergence of roadside stands. They are not located in Hartford but draw much business from inner-city folk. Families like the Wade's, who have farmed in Simsbury for five generations, opened roadside stands that still exist today. Once the regional market opens it makes it easier for these stands to survive because they can become small, one stop shopping areas for people who want to purchase fresh, local produce but still get fruits like oranges and bananas without having to rise at 5 a.m.

1952: The Regional Market is opened. It had 32 stalls. Supermarkets also emerge providing a consistent and convenient source of food for people.

1975: Attempts are made by the City to open an inner-city farmers' market over the next three years. The City failed miserably until area agencies banded together in 1977-78 and started Hartford Food System and FarmMarket.

1978: Farm Market is the first of 50 markets to re-emerge in Connecticut after a 50-year hiatus.

1979: Three additional markets opened at Barry Square, Clay/Hill Arsenal/South Arsenal and South Green.

1979-Present: There have been a minimum of four markets every year in Hartford since the markets made a come back. The locations and number of participating farmers varies.

1988: Connecticut is one of 10 states to do a pilot for the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).  This program provides WIC clients (women, infant, and children deemed nutritionally at risk) with booklets of $15 worth of vouchers (5 vouchers @ $3.00 each) for the purchase of Connecticut grown fresh fruits and vegetables at certified farmers' markets throughout the state.

1989: Connecticut is one of the first states in the country to implement a Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.  The program is very similar to the WIC FMNP, but the vouchers are distributed to seniors that live in subsidized housing.

1990s: Farmers' markets are growing 4-6 per year.

1991: Connecticut is the first state wide Farmers' Market Nutrition Program in the country.

1992: Main Street Market was built to provide the city with a public market and to provide a better venue for the farmers.

1993: There are a total of 38 farmers' markets in the state.

1996: The total of farmers' markets in Connecticut has grown to 50.

2000: Farmers' Markets are growing 6-10 per year in the state and there are many towns supporting farmers' market growth. Farmers are setting up on town greens for the  first time in 100s of years.

2008: There are 23 new farmers' markets this year.  As of today, the total number in the state is well over 100 and counting.

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