Farmers market wraps up season

By: 
Jen Kocher

Jen Kocher

NLJ Correspondent

 

Storm clouds clotted like a bruise above Railroad Park on Thursday evening as vendors unpacked produce, stacked jars of pickled goods and organized breads and pastries into neat rows on tables. Despite the spitting rain and cool weather, dozens of people threw on hoods and cinched coat collars as they perused the variety of goods from the half-dozen vendors gathered for the final farmers market, wrapping up what unanimously seemed to be a successful first season.

Market organizer and part-time DJ Andrew McKay was all smiles from his KASL radio booth, where he was spinning tunes piped through overhead speakers. What began as an experiment definitely gained traction throughout the season, he said, and seemed to be a big hit with locals. He and other vendors were pretty shocked by how well they did throughout the season.

For seasoned vendors such as local woodworker and owner of  J & M Gifts and Crafts, Jay Whitney, the Thursday market provided him with another venue in which to showcase his handcrafted, engraved wooden boxes and other woodcrafts. He does this for a living and travels to quite a few craft shows throughout the state year-round, and was grateful to take advantage of the market in his hometown.  

He wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised.

“We had a good season,” he said with a smile, adding that he’d definitely be interested in coming back next year and would also be open to participating in an indoor venue year-round should the opportunity arise.

Across the lawn, Micah Popma was busy organizing his crates and wagonfuls of pumpkins, gourds, squashes and late-season tomatoes. New to the market, he’d been a steady presence at most of the Thursday nights throughout the season, and tonight like the others, he was grateful for the opportunity to unload his excess of produce to his in-town neighbors.

“I planted too big of a garden, and had to do something,” he said. “It was definitely a good growing season.”

He, like the other vendors, had been pleasantly surprised by the turnout, though he was eager to wrap up the season and his exhaustive gardening efforts that year got a little out of control.

His festive, seasonal pumpkins and gourds came right on cue as many shoppers stopped to admire the elegant speckled-swan gourds and load up pumpkins for carving. 

Fellow vendors Dave and Denise Ehlers fielded questions from the handful of customers checking out their neat rows of pickled canned goods. Both full-time educators, the couple launched their Welcome to Our Garden Table sideline business of canned and fresh produce a few years ago out of love for gardening and pickling. 

Among their most requested items was the pickled garlic that they also grow in their garden.

Their items can be purchased year-round, but they figured they’d take advantage of the local seasonal venue.

“We had a very good summer,” Dave said of their first foray into the farmers market, noting that they wouldn’t mind taking a winter off to focus on their day jobs, though they’d likely be back next year.

Baker Sue Kettley’s breads, pepperoni rolls, pies and other pastries were pretty much sold out within the first hour. Having retired from a career as food service director for Weston County School District No. 1, Kettley is an old-hand when it comes to baking and preparing food for others.

She loves what she does and was positively blown away by the positive reception at this market. If she could do this all year, she’d be happy, and can’t wait for next summer’s market to roll around.

“It’s been very successful,” she said with a big smile as she bagged up her last mini cherry pie and organized the remaining few items on her table. Along with enjoying the added retirement income from the market, she also appreciates visiting with friends and customers, and being able to share her love of baking with other people.

She’ll definitely be back next year and hopes to see momentum for the market grow.

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