WATERTOWN — Customers who pick up fruits and vegetables from the Simmons Farms booth at the downtown farmers market might have noticed a big change six weeks ago.

Simmons Farms got a head-start on the state’s ban on plastic bags and switched over to using only paper bags in July.

The Copenhagen farm is one of the first businesses to make the switch in the north country. The state law banning plastic bags at grocery stores and food businesses will go into effect in March 2020.

Owner Shari Simmons figured that her business gave out about 1,000 plastic bags a week at her booth at the Greater Watertown-North Country Farm & Craft Market, That’s about 20,000 by the time the 43rd season comes to an end on Wednesday.

“We weren’t very good to the environment, were we?” she said.

Since making the change, she said her business is using fewer bags.

With 70 vendors signed up, the farmers market again took place on Washington Street and along an expanded section on Sterling Street.

But, over the season, market-goers were greeted by a significant number of vacant spots from vendors not showing up on some weeks.

Sometimes it was because of rain.

Yet Kayla Perry, the chamber’s director of events, said a little rain didn’t dampen the atmosphere of the farmers market.

“We’re a rain or shine market,” she said, stressing that the vacant spots along the farmers market were caused by a variety of factors, not only the weather.

One week in August, the operators of C&J Kettle Corn skipped the market altogether because of a drenching rain.

While July was dry and busy, August was wet and slow, owner Jerry Sherman said.

In spite of the weather, sales ended up only $30 down from what he projected.

In his fourth year at the market, Duane Bender was mostly busy as a bee at his honey booth this year.

“We can’t complain,” he said, stressing that Busy Bee Honey will be back for a fifth season next year.

It was the first year that Sweet Cindy’s Gluten Free Bakery, Fulton, had a booth at the farmers market.

Like they have done since May, Patrick Sagen and his mother, Maryann, manned the bakery’s booth after driving the 90 minutes from Fulton.

It’s only one of two farmers markets that Cindy’s bakery attends.

And Maryann Sagen insisted that the bakery fills a need in Watertown, noting it’s the only place their customers can find gluten-free baked goods in the city.

“We have our regular customers,” she said.

Shannon Thompson, Philadelphia, showed up every week to “definitely to get a cinnamon bun.”

She and a couple of friends waited in line last Wednesday to pre-order their favorite items that they’ll save and put in their freezers for the winter.

“I’m sad we won’t have gluten-free every week,” she said.

Ms. Perry, however, is already looking forward to the 44th season starting next May.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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