Farmers market stand in Kennebunk swaps stories instead of produce
Farmer's markets are a place to purchase produce and connect with local vendors. Held every Saturday morning, the Kennebunk Farmer's Market is no exception. There is one purveyor who provides a different kind of offering: a space to sit and share stories.
Sporting a full white beard and grey denim jeans, Stacy Wentworth looks like a prospector plucked straight out of the Gold Rush. The Maine native is 85 years old, with hands weathered from over a half-century working as a carpenter.
Wentworth has stationed himself next to a stand selling cookies and baked goods. He pitched a patio umbrella and sat down in one of the four deck chairs underneath, shaded from the mid-September sun. While neighboring stands display signs with the prices for freshly picked fruits and vegetables, Wentworth's sign displays a different message: “Rest Awhile: Swap a Story or Two.”
"Many times two people come [to the market]. One of the partners is the chief buyer, so the other person [walks over to my stand and] says 'I'll sit down for a while you do your shopping, dear.' And those times have been very interesting," Wentworth said.
Sessions at the booth start off as most conversations do.
"I usually introduce myself when somebody sits down and I say, 'So what's your story?' And they say 'I don't have any story.' And in two minutes, they're telling me all kinds of stories," Wentworth said.
An older man about ten years younger than Wentworth sat down. He wore a baseball cap which read "Vietnam War Army Veteran."
"So, you're an Army veteran?" asked Wentworth.
"Yes, sir, I am," the veteran replied.
"I am, too," Wentworth said, following up with a question about where the Army veteran went for training.
"I went to basic at Fort Dix, New Jersey," said the veteran.
"I did too! What time of year did you go?"
"I went in January, and it was a damn cold!" Wentworth tilted his head back for a laugh.
The veteran laughed with him. "Yeah, we did pretty well on the weather."
The booth gets a steady flow of people. Some are acquaintances of Wentworth's, while others are complete strangers. Nevertheless, all who sit down seem eager to share their stories with the Mainer.
"I'm a mushroom hunter," said one woman who sat down with her friend. "A couple of weeks ago, I was sick as a dog. I went to bed and I was barfing all night long."
"You're not invited to my house anymore," replied her friend, eliciting a piercing laugh from Wentworth. "I don't have enough insurance for that!"
Wentworth is a skilled conversationalist, even with those who only sat down looking for some shade on an 80-degree day.
Like the shoppers at the market, the stories come and go with ease. When asked about himself, Wentworth makes a confession.
"It took a certain amount of courage for me to set up this area," Wentworth said during a lull between booth participants. "Because … I'm not that outgoing."
Talking with strangers makes him a bit uneasy, he said.
"I'm very comfortable with friends and doing things," Wentworth explained. "But chancing it and meeting somebody is completely foreign to my nature. I just felt compelled to do it. Otherwise I'm not going to get into the swing of things and understand what's going on in Kennebunk without sitting down and talking with people."
In the 70-odd years he’s lived in Maine, Wentworth said he's seen Kennebunk's community become fractured. That's in part due to the region's economic situation.
"What I'm observing and talking with people, people that grew up here can't afford the place," Wentworth said. "If it wasn't for family connections and stuff. I wouldn't have a place I couldn't afford a place to live let alone you know, food and all the other costs."
As he see it, the farmer's market is a place where everyone can come together: for a few ears of corn, a bag of fresh kale and a good conversation.