Green Shoots

Did anyone else go to the farmers’ market today? I got there an hour after it opened, and already all the produce was gone. The bread sold out shortly after I arrived, and the other goods were going fast. It was a good start to something Berlin needs: something to draw people in.

It exemplified some of what Berlin needs. I drive across Pinkham Notch every time I go to work. Yesterday was the first time I ever saw a sign at the intersection of Route 16 and 2 near the Gorham Commons directing traffic to Berlin. Who put it up? WREN.

It took a group of 40 and 50-something women to come up with the idea to direct traffic to Berlin. In the lead up to no other event have I ever seen a sign there, in over a year of coming to Berlin. Drive in to the 50’s? No. Northern Forest Rally? No. Heritage Festival? No.

Why is that? I’ve heard people say Berlin doesn’t have anything to offer, but when these types of things are happening it does. This is a major thoroughfare to the North Country, the major thoroughfare to the eastern section of Coös County. Why wouldn’t everyone advertise there?

Now, granted, everything didn’t run perfect. The signs didn’t say Berlin, I was told, and some people were looking around Gorham for the market, to no avail. But there was a buzz in the city today, and at least one business reported some extra sales. Unlike the forest rally and other events, this isn’t a one-time deal. This will be there next Thursday, and the Thursday after that, with more vendors and more produce and more traffic. If people get to recognize this it can be a real draw, and one that reoccurs every year.

These opportunities are all around the region. The North Country needs economic stimulus, but the assets are there, in the people, the place, and the atmosphere. Who is going to put on a concert series at Northern Forest Heritage Park? And if someone does are they going to advertise it in Bethel?

It was energizing to see the market doing so well today, and to see so many familiar faces there. It isn’t like most of the state, where “community” rings hollow. I shook more hands and knew more people than I would had the market been in my own town. Part of that is certainly the nature of my job, but part of it is Berlin. It is a friendly city, where people smile when they see you instead of walking on past. To so many North Country residents those qualities are unremarkable, but in reality they are an invaluable asset as well.

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