Area shoppers will be glad to know the Farmers’ Market will open again on May 1 at the VFW parking lot on Karsch Boulevard. Area producers will be on hand from 7-11 a.m. Saturdays with their locally grown produce and plants, and from 2:30-5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoons.
Plans for the new year were announced at the fifth annual dinner held for the vendors last Tuesday evening at the St. Francois Country Club. Becky Landrum, market manager, and her assistant Charlene Summers welcomed the vendors and their guests. Guests for the evening included Dr. Mary Hendrickson and Shelley Bush of the Missouri University Extension, Jim and Nancy Dismuke, Greg and Debra Beavers, and new market assistants Jinni Smith and Chuck Sitze.
Landrum said all involved are extremely pleased that the market is growing each year. “We have 40 vendors on our roll that participated in the market throughout the year. We usually have between 16 and 23 vendors show up each market day,” said Landrum. Those who were there four times or more are the ones invited to the banquet, which is paid for out of the weekly fees.
“We asked each of our vendors to turn in a total of their sales for the year,” said Landrum. “We were very pleased to see that this past season our vendors took in a combined total of more than $35,000. Our Farmers Market has grown considerably since it was started in 1999.”
Ron Hale, one of the founders of the market, was recently appointed to the Missouri Farmers’ Market Association board of directors. Hale attends market workshops all over the state and said, “Everyone is always so surprised when they learn we only charge our vendors a $5 fee to join and $3 for each market day they participate. Most markets around the state charge much more than that. Of course, they also pay their market managers, where we are fortunate to have Becky and Charlene volunteer their time.
“Our objective is to furnish area growers with a place to sell their produce and products and not to make a profit. We feel that such things as having this annual dinner for our vendors gives a spirit of camaraderie among them and makes for a better market. We hope to hold more workshops for local growers to help them learn more about marketing their product.”
Dr. Mary Hendrickson of Columbia University was the guest speaker. Dr. Hendrickson is an Extension Associate, a Professor of Rural Sociology and Director of Food Circles Projects for the University.
“People who shop at farmers’ markets are interested in the taste and the quality of the produce. They like knowing the people who grow the food are local and that the produce is fresh and not shipped in,” said Hendrickson. She also said that besides marketing to those who come to the market, producers should consider schools, restaurants, and small grocery stores as potential customers also.
The vendors were reminded that the market would again supply bags for each vendor to use for sacking produce, and encouraged each of them to display a sign at their space with their name and address so shoppers will know they are local.
Landrum reminded those present that the market will open May 1 at the VFW parking lot, and to bring any early produce and plants they have for sale. “The lot provides shade for our vendors and parking for our customers and is easily accessible from Karsch Blvd. We appreciate the generosity of the VFW in allowing us the use of this space each Saturday and Wednesday. It is a great help to our local growers and a service to the community.”
Those who would like to take part in the market should come to the VFW lot any Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon and see the market manager or one of the assistants for information.
“We always like to have new vendors join our market,” said Landrum, “and encourage them to just show up and we’ll get them set up. Our only stipulation is that their products must be grown by them or by another area farmer. In this way we can insure the integrity of the market.”