Music, tomato raffle, a friendly rooster at at village farmers' market

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Liam Derosa is not your typical troubadour.

For starters, he just turned 13. He’ll be at Park View Middle School this fall and he’s not on a circuit.

But he has a gig on Saturday mornings where he can make $60 to $90, depending on the generosity of shoppers. At least half the money goes into a college fund, as he intends to pursue a career in music.

And while he is a member of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, you won’t find him on stage this summer.

Liam is a regular at the Pawtuxet Village Farmers Market, held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet.

After an audition, Jess Watt, manager of the Farmers Market, added Liam to the events planned around the market. She thought a few Celtic and American tunes, which Liam plays on his violin, would add some flavor to the market. She was right. The music brought in a few more shoppers, lending buzz to a market that is already buzzing with regulars from in and outside Pawtuxet.

Sandy Cooper, who lives in West Warwick, visits Pawtuxet on Saturdays. It’s part of her routine. She wouldn’t miss it.

Shoppers and vendors are on a first-name basis, and apart from talk about what’s in season and what will be harvested in the next week or two – there’s always something to look forward to – there are stories to share.

Susan Hartman couldn’t resist the basil. She held a bunch of the green herb like a bouquet of flowers, delighting in its powerful aroma. While she grows basil in her home garden, enough to make and freeze pesto for the winter, she couldn’t resist the temptation for some more. This would get chopped up and added to salads and just about everything else.

Tomatoes – lots of the fruit, from red ones to purple, orange and yellow ones – curried the attention of shoppers who felt their heft, inquired as to their names and marveled at their sometimes funky shapes. Tomatoes have been slow this year, and it hasn’t been easy, says Christina Dedora of Blue Skys Farm. But with the July heat, they are here.

Watt plans to make the most of it, too. On Saturday, shoppers are invited to enter a free raffle with the winner getting five pounds of tomatoes. There will also be a tomato tasting. She promotes the farmers market at every opportunity. She puts out a newsletter and is always angling to bring in additional vendors. The most recent addition is Sydney Café, whose selection of beverages and baked goods provides breakfast fare for many shoppers.

She said the EBT program, which gives 100 percent value for the purchase of produce for people on the SNAP program, has been a boost for farmers markets. Watt also looks to connect with community organizations, including neighborhood associations and the Gaspee Days Committee.

On Aug. 24, she has arranged for the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society to have a sale of fall blooming perennials, including asters, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed and boneset. The selection will also include native shrubs and grasses.

“We are small,” she said, “but a mighty market.”

The market is in its 17th season, and Watts, who is the chef at Little Falls Bakery & Café, feels privileged to be the manager. Depending on the weather, she said, anywhere from 100 to 500 people shop on Saturday. She maintains an email list of more than 650 for her newsletter and urges those who want to stay up to date on market events to visit the website and send along their email.

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