Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 08 May 2012 14:42
The Hillsboro Farmers Market kicked off its seventh season Thursday in a new location and with a few surprises.
Joni Calam, one of the organizers, said to commemorate the market’s seventh anniversary, vendor fees are being waived.
“This is our celebratory year and we wanted to give our vendors a break from paying,” she said. “It’s nice to tell people there is no cost and see their surprised look.”
Calam said another advantage in waiving this year’s fee is it helps those on fixed incomes who drive to Hillsboro.
“It adds up paying for the gas to get here,” she said.
Regular season fees were $5 a night or $15 for the month.
Senior nutrition program
The Marion County Department on Aging is offering vouchers for senior citizens interested in purchasing items at local farmers markets, Calam said.
“People who are eligible for the nutrition program can get vouchers through the Hillsboro Senior Center and spend those vouchers with vendors certified to accept them,” she said.
To be eligible, candidates must be age 60 or older and meet certain income requirements.
Calam suggested that people wanting to learn more about this program should call the Department on Aging at 620-382-3580.
“The vouchers are like spending cash,” she said, “but anyone using them won’t get change back.”
Calam wanted to remind everyone about the new market location at the Emprise Bank courtyard.
The reason for changing the site, she said, was to allow the a sodded lawn at the Schaeffler House to get established.
Although the location is temporary, Calam said it’s more of a “wait and see” as to whether vendors will be back at the former location before the season ends.
“It is out of my hands and up to the city,” she said.
Prior to Emprise Bank offering the use of its courtyard, Memorial Park was discussed by some as an alternative.
“I have heard from several people they were so glad we were not at the park because of the distance,” Calam said. “That seems to make a difference for some people, but not sure of what all was involved.”
Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said one reason the park was not considered the best option was because the restrooms need upgrading.
Another advantage of the courtyard, Dalke said in a recent council meeting, is the many electrical outlets and tables with umbrellas available, plus the proximity of city hall restrooms.
Products to peddle
Calam said she was happy to see the variety of merchandise again this year.
“We have vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, eggs, granola, tutus and Hawaiian leis,” she said.
Betsy Walker, one of seven vendors participating in last week’s market, was selling salad containers with a mixture of lettuces or herbs.
One of the containers, Walker said, had cilantro, basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, dill and thyme planted two weeks earlier.
While some vendors own a business or travel to other markets in the area, others are interested only in selling plants or produce from their garden, Calam said.
“Maybe someone has a little garden and wants to sell tomatoes,” she said. “They don’t need to call, but it is nice to know who is coming.”
Limited space is an issue.
“We can spill out onto the sidewalk (in front of the courtyard), but it would be nice to anticipate needing to do that.”
As in past years, the last Thursday of each month is designated for “sell anything night.”
“This is a good time for businesses (and individuals) to come down and sell what they have,” Calam said.
Anyone wanting to sell live plants must be registered with the state of Kansas and have a plant-seller’s license.
Calam said people can go online to the Kansas Department of Agriculture and download the form.
In previous years, the state would send a “paper license,” but this year, Calam said, once the paperwork is complete, the state assigns a license number.
Hot opening night
With temperatures reaching almost 90 degrees, several vendors said people didn’t linger long because of the heat.
A few vendors selling live plants were concerned about the heat and lack of shade.
“Some of the greens and flowers won’t take excessive heat,” one vendor said. “But nobody wants to be negative about the market.”
One woman said she was grateful the market has somewhere to go.
“I just miss the Schaeffler House,” she said. “My kids cannot play here, there’s no shade and I would love to be back there.”
The Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first meal of the season.
Cynthia Fleming, Chamber president, said she was pleased with the turnout.
“We came close to using all of the food we had prepared,” she said. “But it’s always hard to estimate exactly how much to plan for.”
Fleming offered some advice to others serving food on the next warm, sunny market day.
“(People) might want to consider a pop-up canopy to provide a little shade,” she said.
Fleming said if business was enhanced by being downtown, it was a benefit.