Joe Cook staffs the information booth June 5, while other staff members are visiting vendors at the start of the Lewiston Farmers’ Market at its new location on Oxford Street. Cook is one of the first to arrive and always willing to help in any way. Once the market opens, he can usually be found at the entrance greeting customers. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Each Sunday, before the Lewiston Farmers’ Market opens, Joe Cook drags out the tents and carries them on the footrest of his wheelchair.

He is also the official greeter when the market opens at 9:30 a.m. at its new Oxford Street location. He puts out the flag, tallies the official count of patrons and does anything else needed. He rarely misses a week.

“I just run around in my wheelchair and do what I can,” he said, adding that the tent maneuver “is easy.”

Cook, 67, lives on Blake Street and began volunteering last year at the market. He originally planned to take over as the official greeter beginning this season, but began volunteering each week last year as well, and just kept coming back. He had already been going to the farmers’ market regularly — raw milk and strawberries among his favorites — and joined in through talking with staff.

He saw it as an opportunity for a weekly activity, but also as a way to support local farmers.

“Without them, we don’t have food on the table,” he said. “Some people don’t think about that.”

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Joe Cook looks out June 5 at customers arriving at the Lewiston Farmers’ Market on Oxford Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

He only misses a volunteer shift when his health prevents it, he said. Cook is in a wheelchair most of the time, and receives dialysis treatment three days a week.

Joshua Nagine, the interim market manager, said Cook has a passion for the market, and is one of two regular volunteers. He said in the past they have had as many as five, and are “always looking for more.”

“Joe’s desire to engage and greet customers puts a friendly and accessible face front and center every Sunday,” Nagine said. “He has quickly become integral to the market team for setup and takedown, but also for a reliable friendly face who acknowledges everyone who shops with us and helps in any way asked by the vendors, customers and staff.”

Cook admits it is not always easy. He said he recently tried setting up one of the market tents himself, but ultimately needed an extra hand.

“For me,” he said, “most things are doable.”

He said he plans to keep it up for as long as he can, or “as long as they want to keep me.”

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The Lewiston Farmers’ Market, sponsored by St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, relocated to Oxford Street this year, holding a site cleanup in April.

Joe Cook greets visitors June 5 to the Lewiston Farmers’ Market at its new location on Oxford Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Oxford Street lot sits next to the Lewiston House of Pizza, with the market sometimes utilizing the adjacent space at 75 Lincoln St. for related activities. The market was formerly in the Bates Mill No. 5 parking lot, but was relocated due to pending environmental work on the property.

Nagine said the market is looking for a full-time manager. The full details of the position were posted last week on the market’s Facebook page.

The Lewiston Farmers’ Market is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday.

It is more than likely Cook will be the one who greets you.

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.


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