GUILFORD — Steve Rowe has a dream for Dudley Farm farmers’ market: amid the sweet smell of hay in the air and a barn swallow warbling, a French toast breakfast with bread from Madison’s Hometown Bakery, fresh eggs from a local farm, and maple syrup tapped from the trees on Buster Scranton’s Maple Grove Farm in North Guilford.
“All the makings of a breakfast are right here,” said Rowe, the newly installed market manager, along with partner Katrina Bonvini, of the Dudley Farm Farmers’ Market, which hosts an indoor winter market on Saturday, Feb. 1.
That’s just one among the veritable cornucopia of ideas that has the 60-year old “fired up,” as he put it, to get started.
The Chester resident’s road to his current position began four years ago on a weekend camping trip to the Catskills when he carved a wooden cup from a piece of black birch.
“I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t have any specific tools,” he said, “but it was relaxing. It was satisfying. I’ve read somewhere that handcrafters reach a meditative state similar to that of a Tibetan monk. That’s what I found.”
He did research. Soon he was whittling spoons from wood. Then came a call from Beth Payne, director of the Dudley Farm Museum. She asked him to do a workshop on spoon carving. The workshop was on a Saturday. The market was in full swing. He asked then-market manager Martha Haeseler if he could set up a table.
“Before I knew it, I was vending and selling and then Martha was asking me and Katrina if we might be interested in taking over,” he said.
“Katrina has a lot of experience with publicity, promotion, and event management, and she’s also a wonderfully creative jeweler,” said Haeseler, who retired to spend more time on her own needle felting, among other crafts, and with her grandchildren.
“With Steve, who appreciates the meta-community created by the market, and whose hand-crafting fits in with what the market should offer, they seemed the perfect duo.”
That Rowe and Bonvini are placing a renewed emphasis on fresh, locally farmed food at the market, as opposed to crafts, might seem at odds with their work in whittling and jewelry-making.
Not at all, it seems, with respect to Rowe. It aligns with his philosophy as a personal trainer, which he’s been doing for a little over 15 years.
“I work differently from most,” he said. “I’m not big on pushing people to a gym. It’s really more about being a normal active individual and having a healthy food intake.”
That means “going to the farmers, getting real food,” he said.
It also means making Dudley Farm Farmers’ Market “the alternative place for Shoreline residents to buy good quality food,” including expanded selections on produce, meats, cheeses, and locally roasted coffee and coffee beans and locally caught fish.
Among other ideas: attracting local food trucks providing high-quality meals to increase foot traffic, extending the hours of the market, and putting together short promotional videos about each vendor.
That’s where Bonvini, with her background in media and advertising, comes in, as Dudley Farm Museum director Payne recognized.
“As our farmers’ market enters its 25th year, Steve and Katrina bring a wealth of experience in marketing and management, an impressive skillset to help manage and grow our market, and a passion for locally grown foods,” Payne said.
For Rowe, the goal is simple: “Build the second oldest farmers’ market in Connecticut into the best known in the state.”
If that includes farm-fresh French toast for all, so much the better.
The Dudley Farm Winter Market takes place on Saturday, Feb. 1 on the lower level of the Munger Barn from 9 am to 12:30 p.m. at The Dudley Farm, 2351 Durham Road, Guilford. For more information, email email@example.com or call 203-457-0770.
The event is free. All are welcome.