As someone who writes about Connecticut a lot, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about what the Constitution State does well – and what it doesn’t do all that well. The latter category includes things like train service and state pride, while the former includes things like state parks and pizza. Two other things Connecticut does especially well are Revolutionary War-era history and locally grown and made food. And those two come together beautifully every Sunday from June to October at the Coventry Farmers’ Market.
The market is the largest in the state, and consistently appears on lists of the best in New England. So why am I writing about it on a site devoted to off-the-beaten-path attractions? Because Connecticut feels much bigger than it is, and if you don’t live near Coventry, you probably don’t know that this small town in Tolland County is home to an amazing and lively weekly market. I certainly didn’t; heck, I didn’t even know how to pronounce Coventry for the first few decades I lived here. But the farmers’ market is the place to be when over 75 vendors selling produce, baked goods, prepared foods, drinks, flowers, jewelry, and a bunch of other things gather on summer and fall weekends. In addition to the regular vendors, you’ll find a range of food trucks – including Connecticut favorites like NoRA Cupcake Company and Bear’s Smokehouse – plus guest vendors and perhaps a musical performance or special demonstration. Each week’s market has a theme, like “CT Beer & BBQ” or “Harvest Somethin’ Pumpkin.” But you don’t have to be enthused about the particular focus on the day you go; it’s easy to simply bypass the themed events and enjoy the rest of the market.
The other factor that elevates Coventry’s market above the rest is that it’s held on the pastoral grounds of the Nathan Hale Homestead. Hale, Connecticut’s official state hero, was born on this property but never lived in the home that stands here today. The patriotic young schoolmaster-turned-spy, who was sadly not very adept at spying, was hanged by the British shortly before his family built the house in 1776. Tour guides at the museum, which is managed by Connecticut Landmarks, tell the story not just of Nathan Hale but of the property and the very large Hale family. They also explain various aspects of daily life in the 18th century.
Though it’s not exactly around the corner from me, and there are many other lovely farmers’ markets all across the state, I try to come to Coventry at least once every year. That’s partly for the shopping opportunities – I like delicious treats like Cato Corner Farm cheese and Hartford Baking Co. bread, not to mention all the fresh fruits and vegetables. I also enjoy learning about new-to-me local businesses – on this trip, I was tempted by goods from Purring Pottery and Wild Precious Jewelry. But mostly, I come to Coventry because I just love seeing Connecticut do those things it does well.
-Plan to arrive by 11:00 a.m., if not before. This place fills up fast, and because parking is in a field, you’ll be happier if you get a spot early. (You’ll see signs and/or humans directing you where to park.)
-If you’re driving an hour or more to get to Coventry, consider making a whole day trip of it. A few options include a wine tasting at Cassidy Hill Vineyard, browsing the antique stores on Coventry’s old-fashioned Main Street, or exploring some of the area’s non-Hale-related history on the Mill Brook Park Trail, just behind the downtown shops. You could also check out nearby attractions like the Hop River State Park Trail, a 20-mile former railroad line turned hiking and biking path, or the town of Mansfield, which contains several lovely historic districts and the village of Storrs, home of the main campus of the University of Connecticut.
The Coventry Farmers’ Market is located at 2299 South Street, Coventry.
The market is open Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. between June and October.
Check their website for specific dates, weekly themes and events, and updated info about vendors.
The Nathan Hale Homestead is also located at 2299 South Street, Coventry.
The museum is open during market hours; check their website for hours on other days, admission fees, and information about special programs.