By Richard Rouse
Special to the Gazette
I’m often asked why Main Streets sponsors the Farmer’s Market in Brigham Circle every Thursday in the summer. The obvious gain is the increase in foot traffic in the community, which benefits all local businesses. Bringing the folks from the Longwood Medical Area, who come from throughout the region, into contact with our wonderful community is cited by many of the regular shoppers as a hidden benefit.
Another frequent question I receive is, “Are they real farmers?” Let me tell you about them.
This year features three different stands. Peter and Helen MacArthur’s Farm has been with us the longest. They own a 45-acre farm in Holliston. Their daughter Katie MacArthur is here most days, and John Trent is the fellow who is always wearing his Mission Hill T-shirt and has worked for the family for three years. Passionate about fresh food, John says that tomatoes are MacArthur’s specialty. He recommends the peppers, squash, herbs and cabbage as well.
For the past three seasons, Gary’s Farmstand has journeyed to Mission Hill from their 250-acre spread, known as Wilkins’ Farm, in Townsend. A roadside stand sits next to their land and they only sell off-site to us. There are four generations of Wilkins working on the farm, with Gary being the patriarch. A favorite item is pies baked fresh early on Thursday mornings by Barb, who is Grandma Wilkins. The only items not produced on their farm are the jellies and honey, which come from their neighbor’s place.
This year has brought a third vendor, the 35-acre Wenger’s Farm from Bellingham, operated by Glenn and Karen Auker. They state that sales have steadily increased each week and that their blueberries and strawberries are to die for. Cucumbers, string beans, cut flowers and peaches are big sellers, in addition to their baked goods, which are bringing customers back for more. Their 8-year-old son helps out and says the cinnamon pull-aparts are his favorite.
The market has other features as well. The Boston Cyclists Unionoffers free bike tune-ups. The MassArt Artmobile crew offer artistic activities for young and old. The University of Massachusetts Extension Program provides all sorts of practical advice free of charge to all comers.
Marvelous Maggie Cohn and volunteers from the Mission Hill Health Movement like our cherished pal Barry Twomey recently partnered with Main Streets in operating the Farmer’s Market. Anyone who knows Maggie can vouch for her encyclopedic knowledge of nutrition matters and her willingness to assist and provide information on the benefits of healthy eating.
The Boston Food Project Bounty Bucks program provides vouchers for those who receive food assistance to purchase $20 worth of products for $10—a great deal for those who qualify. Come by any Thursday until late October.
Boston Police District B-2 Capt. John Davin has been observed walking the neighborhood on a regular basis, speaking with residents and business owners and offering advice and crime prevention tips. The captain says, “Proactive community safety requires diligence and awareness…If you see something that doesn’t look right, call 911. Too often people tend to look the other way. Make the call and let my officers sort it out. We want to prevent crime. If you see something, say something!”
Mission Hill Main Street merchants were well in attendance at many of the events of the Urban League’s national convention last month. On July 26, Mayor Menino hosted a reception at Hibernian Hall with national business bigwigs and Chamber of Commerce head Paul Guzzi. City Hall honchos rubbed elbows with Mission Hill luminaries like Michel Soltani, Ron Bell, Dermot Doyne, Mash Abdirahman, Diarmuid O’Neill, John McGonagle, state Rep. Jeff Sánchez and City Councilor Michael Ross.
Deb Beatty Mel from Boston Building Resources had a wonderful idea to orient newcomers to the neighborhood with a “Weeknight Welcome Walk” to Mission Hill, which Main Streets will be hosting in late September. With the recent opening of the Oliver Lofts on Terrace Street, Deb thought it would be nice to familiarize folks with the plethora of businesses and services right in our neighborhood. If you wish to be involved in any way, please call or leave a message with Main Streets at 617-427-7399.
Keep the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 6 open to enjoy the culinary delights of Roxtoberfest, sponsored by Discover Roxbury and supported by Mission Hill Main Streets. Participants unlock special meal deals by wearing a Roxtoberfest T-shirt to a growing number of participating establishments, including Lilly’s Gourmet Pizza, Mission Café, Crispy Dough Pizzeria, Penguin Pizza. Contact James Pierre at www.discoverroxbury.org or 617-427-1006 to find out more.
Very often we are quick to point an accusing finger when things don’t go right. I speak to the never-ending amount of litter deposited in the neighborhood and boarded-up buildings that remain shuttered far too long. I have good news to report. Through the efforts of Mayor Menino, Councilor Ross and Will Onuoha from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, the Public Works Department transferred one of its superstars, Darrell Kiser, from Dorchester to the Roxbury yard and he has tasked a hokey to the area. A hokey is that little green golf cart with the trash equipment that you see with Mr. Comarra Freeman jumping off of with his broom and shovel. Give him a thumbs-up when you see him—his work is making a difference.
On the other front, work has commenced on the 800 Huntington Ave. building that will house the Massachusetts Eye and Ear outpatient ophthalmology clinic and will certainly brighten up that block for years to come. Mass Eye and Ear seems to be using both those senses well in their selecting Mr. Dino DiFronzo to work with the neighborhood. He is receiving high marks all around.
The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.