Early in our New England history, corn had a noticeable presence in the colonial diet. Additionally, native pumpkins, squash, beans, and peas, alongside wheat, barley, and oats were grown to nourish our founding families. Colonial family gardens often contained both herbs (parsley) and vegetables (lettuce, carrots, spinach, turnips). In the north, farming produced less than in our southern New England counterparts because of a compromised growing season and poor soil. Local Vermont merchants journeyed to urban areas to hand pick fresh produce for their stores, offering an abundance of fresh options for families in our area. The railroad, of course, played an important role of bringing the goods to Vermont from our neighboring urban, Boston or as otherwise affectionately known as, no pun intended, “Beantown”.
When recounting New England history, we often travel back to Boston, Massachusetts – firstly because it was a central meeting place for our country’s forefathers, but also for its place as a world marketplace. Anyone whose ancestors arrived at the “port of Boston” knows full well the importance of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. A wealthy merchant, Peter Faneuil, envisioned this structure as the home to merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce vendors. This public marketplace, infused with the culture of the people of Greece, Italy, Poland, Ireland, et al, provided an open-air venue for the celebration of food. During the early part of the 19th century, the center edifice of Quincy Market was utilized exclusively for more than 100 wholesale produce stalls. Produce vendors were given strict operating guidelines to assure their success and abiding competition. Pushcarts were leased to local merchants to showcase their goods. This “Pushcart Program” was the first in the country.
Today, at F.H. Gillingham & Sons, two store employees, our grocery and produce buyers, are the ancestors of immigrant wholesale fruit sellers, housed, during the early 1900s, in #24A Faneuil Hall square – selling chestnuts, onions, fresh fruit, and flowers. Our buyers take great care in preserving their own family’s history and pride, while providing Gillingham’s patrons with quality, fair-priced, native and local fruit and vegetables. We offer a no-minimum CSA program honoring the history of the produce stand, a mainstay since the early beginning of our store’s 130-year history. You choose from a vast list of produce - we bag it – and as a bonus for pre-ordering, we throw in an extra 10% off our already low pricing. For CSA information, visit our Facebook page, or call (802) 457-2100.
A family trip to our store is a true food culture experience. Stop by - gather produce, choose fine Vermont and ethnic food specialties, old-world breads and artisanal cheeses, wines from all over the world, and share your ancestor’s stories with us. We are indeed a Vermont general store…with a little worldliness thrown in.