Belfast Farmers' Market, a mainstay of downtown for 37 years, recently updated its website with a message that begins "Don't be confused," and goes on to assure customers that the market will continue to operate "come wind, rain, shine, snowbanks, mud and new markets in the area."

The new market in this case is Paul Naron's United Farmers Market of Maine, which held its grand opening May 27. The venture in downtown has generally received a warm welcome, in part because it revived a large building that stood vacant for a number of years.

Contrary to the "united" name, and the belfastmarket.com web address, however, the new market is not taking the place of the old one, Belfast Farmers' Market Vice President Anne Saggese said May 30.

"The two ideas are very different," she said. "We're a traditional outdoor producer-only market. Even the vendors that aren't only meat or veggie farmers have a strong connection to the agricultural community in the state."

Saggese described United Farmers' Market as more of a "public market" in the style of Pike's Place Market in Seattle. Naron, in the weeks before the opening of United Farmers' Market of Maine, included Pike's Place on a short list of markets he doesn't want to emulate, because the the emphasis on retail pulls farmers and producers away from their primary work. However, his vendors include a wider array of non-farm businesses.

Shoppers won't have to choose which market to go to — Belfast Farmers' Market is open on Fridays at Waterfall Arts in the summer, and at Aubuchon Hardware in the winter; United Farmers Market is on Saturdays at its permanent indoor facility on Spring Street.

The question facing both farmers' markets as the summer season gets underway is: Will they choose one over the other?

"I think Belfast has plenty of room for both," Saggese said. "They're two different beasts. We're going to keep doing what we do. We have no plans on changing anything."

Saggese said United Farmers' Market of Maine is the largest ostensible competitor in the last 37 years, but Belfast Farmers' Market has weathered four others and grown steadily on the support of loyal customers, Saggese said.

The larger challenge, she said, will be to expand the market for local foods, which she said accounts for only 3 percent of food sales nationwide.

"So there's more than enough room for growth," she said. "Both of us will need to push a little harder to get new people out to markets to buy local. But the customers are there."

Belfast Farmers' Market is open Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Waterfall Arts, 256 High Street through October, and Aubuchon Hardware, 231 Northport Ave., from November through April.

United Farmers Market is open Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 18 Spring Street.