In the summer, rush hour in Belgrade Lakes hits about 11 on Sunday morning. That’s when St. Helena’s and Union Church both let out onto Main Street and the congregations join the Sunday day-trippers and tourists at the village’s two farmers markets.

That’s right: two farmers markets. How lucky is Belgrade?

At the south end of Main Street, Belgrade Village Market does brisk business. Customers can sit at a shady table, eat a fresh muffin and watch the parade of Sunday traffic coming into town on Route 27 or the comings and goings at the Sunset Grille.

About a two-minute walk up the road, the Belgrade Lakes Farmers’ Market also does a brisk business — on the sunny lawn of the Make Lakes Resource Center. Visitors, some arriving by boat, can listen to bluegrass music as they shop.

Main Street is crowded on Sunday; SUVs with plates from places like New York, Virginia and Florida make the narrow road hard to navigate. People on their way through up to the mountains may find it irritating, but those who stop to take in the town on Sunday don’t seem to mind.

There’s breakfast at the Sunset Grille, or sandwiches, coffee, ice cream or whatever else you want at Day’s Store. There are gift shops, art galleries and Long Pond and Mill Stream.

And heck, there are two farmers markets.

It may take more than a Sunday visit to notice something’s off.

For instance, there’s the sign on the telephone pole, several weeks old, saying the market at the lakes center was closing for a week for restructuring and Thursday markets were canceled for the season.

And the van parked at the entrance to the lakes center a couple weeks ago with the hand-made sign advertising the other market. And the competing notices in the newspapers’ calendar sections that look like an accidental repeat, until you read it more closely.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that there are two farmers markets where for eight years there had been one.

Both sides — because anytime there’s a disagreement that causes a breakup, there are sides — love their market and want it to succeed.

The Belgrade Lakes Farmers’ Market has no official spokeswoman; it operates as a group. But one of the founders, Sue Gawler, said by email this week the market is all about building community “by connecting people to local food and farms, and to support local farmers, food producers, and farm-based crafters by providing a place to sell their agricultural products.”

“We’ve made great strides this year,” she added, pointing out the market, which used to be in the Village Inn parking lot, now has “our beautiful venue at the MLRC, and a terrific family-friendly music and events series that builds community and, we hope, encourages shoppers to spend even more on local products.”

Gawler was a vendor at the market from its start in 2005 until 2010. ALS makes that impossible now, but she still gets to the market on Sundays because, she said, it’s a fun place to be.

Down the road, the Belgrade Village Market is also a part of the community.

Spokeswoman Barbara Skapa, one of the founding members of the original farmers market, said they’re happy with the new location.

The new group has managed to gather a diverse group of vendors. They’re right in the thick of the Sunday traffic, still operating a Thursday market, “and we all like each other.”

Both sides know one market would be ideal, but they don’t give it a lot of hope.

Gawler said her vision of the future would be “one Sunday market where the vendors get along and share a common vision.”

The Belgrade Lakes Farmers’ Market issued a release this week to explain its position:

“We have heard from shoppers, ‘We want one market! Is there any chance of getting back together?’ We would like that, too. At this point, it would require careful deliberations, which just aren’t possible for our farmers and producers in the midst of summer.”

Skapa said the organizational structure would have to change for one market to work. She pointed out that the vendors are ultimately businesspeople and it needs to be run like a business.

She was a diplomat for the United Nations and knows something about deliberations. She talked to a mediator about the differences in the group, but the breakdown came too fast and the selling season is too short; and as every farmer knows, you have to make hay while the sun shines.

The nitty-gritty details of why there are now two farmers markets matters a lot, and is even painful, to those involved.

But for the rest of the world, it’s an age-old tale: Any time humans are involved in an operation, things are bound to fall apart — whether it’s a marriage, a government, or a farmers market. They start out with a common cause but end up wanting different things. Sometimes it’s too broken to fix.

Belgrade is a town of farmers and business owners, teachers, carpenters, commuters, professors, people who like to hunt and fish and ones who like to write or make art or music.

It’s got the Sunset Grille and the Village Inn.

If you’re in just the right spot on School Street on a summer Sunday, you can hear the Catholics of St. Helena’s and the Methodists of Union Church lifting their voices in praise at the same time.

Several months out of the year its population of about 3,000 doubles and it’s a town of people from here and people from away.

There’s room for everyone. Room even, for two farmers markets. But it seems as though it’s the kind of town where, if people really wanted only one, there’d be room for that, too.

Maureen Milliken is news editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. She grew up in Augusta. Her email address is [email protected] Kennebec Tales appears the first and third Thursday of the month.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.