Hillsboro Farmers? Market attracting more vendors

During May through September, the front yard of the historic William F. Schaeffler House transforms itself into the Hillsboro Farmers? Market, where patrons meander among vendors who sell such items as fresh produce, baked goods, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs and potted plants.

?We love to see the community come together every Thursday evening and visit over supper, which has been provided as a fundraiser by some local group or organization,? said Joni Calam, who founded the market with her sister, Sheryl Lehr, in 2006.

This season features new market vendors along with those from past years who display their goods from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays at the northwest corner of Grand and Jefferson.

?Our vendors have done a great job in providing good products, which in turn make them successful and encourages our local economy,? Calam said. ?They have also done a good job in promoting their product by sharing ideas and recipes for using vegetables that may be unfamiliar to our patrons.?

New vendors

Wes and Heather Goertzen, along with Matt and Tia Regier, are among new vendors to the market this year.

?The Regiers purchased an old farmstead and, along with the Goertzens, are bringing home and land back to life,? Calam said. ?We are happy to support this endeavor as they have brought produce to market from the start that we have never had here before, like kale and Swiss chard.

?They are a few steps ahead of some of their customers and are happy to share what they?ve learned in how to prepare their veggies,? she added. ?They also have free-range chicken eggs and have done the research on what that means for the egg as well as the consumer.?

Veteran vendors

Kathy Jantz and daughter Charlene Wedel have been a part of the farmers? market from the beginning.

?Kathy is probably best known for her peanut-butter twists and great pies,? Calam said.

Darlene Carlson, who also has participated since 2006, has established herself as an organic and heirloom grower who enjoys promoting sustainable living.

?Her passion is to help people in their choices to eat healthy, and she does a great job by providing colorful produce, ideas, recipes and occasional samples for her customers of things she has tried,? Calam said.

?If you have a question about an herb or plant, Darlene would enjoy talking with you. You might also try her specialty vinegars, or take home a bunch of her fresh flowers.?

Available produce

The produce available for sale depends on what?s in season.

?This year we have had produce from opening night in May,? Calam said. ?We?ve had beautiful kale, lettuces, Swiss chard, rhubarb, onions, radishes, broccoli, asparagus, peas and beets.?

Shoppers also may find apricots, cabbages, turnips, beans, garlic, herbs, summer squash and potatoes.

?We will soon have melons and rutabagas, tomatoes, winter squash, apples and pumpkins,? she said.

Vendor information

On market day, vendors can set up their booths anytime after 4 p.m., where space is available.

?We begin sales at 5 p.m. and this is in fairness to our vendors to allow for set-up,? Calam said. ?Booth fees are $5 per night, or $15 for the month, which goes toward the promotion of the market.?

All vendors are required to follow guidelines that apply to farmers? markets in Kansas, including regulations for baked goods, produce, plants, labeling and meats.

?We are willing to work with the vendor to help bring them up to code because we want them to be successful,? Calam said. ?They often have a great product, but they have to follow Kansas state regulations.

Good location

When Calam and Lehr first began the market four years ago, it was on a vacant lot at Grand and Washington Street during May and September, and downtown along Main Street during the hotter months.

After the vacant lot sold, the market moved to its current location following an invitation from the Hillsboro Museums.

?We love the park-like atmosphere, and new turf-lined south sidewalk which lends itself to this community gathering,? Calam said.

The location enhances the market?s appeal.

?Hillsboro is very blessed to have the open invitation to use the grounds at the Schaeffler House for its Farmers? Market,? Calam said. ?We?ve had numerous comments over the years on how nice it is to have the market in its current location.

?We also appreciate the use of the Lutheran Church lots as well as the high school for parking availability for our patrons.?

New ventures, faces

Calam said she and Lehr established the mission for the market to promote community ?by providing a family-friendly destination that encourages local, sustainable economy and education in the familiarity and use of fresh fruits and vegetables.?

This summer, Lehr has started a new venture, called the ?Days of Olde Antique Fair.?

?I personally appreciate the management, hours and great foundation (Sheryl) gave to Hillsboro?s Farmers? Market,? Calam said.

With Lehr focusing her energies in a different direction, Amelia Breugem has joined Calam in helping manage the market.

Breugem, who moved to Hillsboro a year ago from central California with husband Frank and daughter Hadassah, 3, became acquainted with Calam at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, where both of their families attend.

?I continue to appreciate Amelia?s enthusiasm and support in the day-to-day management of our market,? Calam said. ?Amelia is creative and brings useful skills that we continue to tap, along with desire for greater community to be realized through our market.?

While living in California, Breugem earned a master?s degree in community gardening that focused on permaculture gardening, which includes organic and sustainable gardening.

?This is great?this is exactly what I want to get involved in and be a part of,? Breugem said about the Hillsboro Farmers? Market.

Food service

Each week, Breugem said, different groups sign up to provide food service. Typically groups sell an average of 100 meals a night, she added.

?We give notice that it?s time to sign up for meals?first come, first served,? Breugem said. ?They set the menu, they set the price, they set up the tables and chairs, we provide the tables and chairs. It?s all up to them what they sell?. It?s a good fundraiser.?

In the beginning, organizers had to call and ask groups to sign up to sell food. ?Now we?ve got people on our waitlist if somebody drops out,? she said.

Shoppers may also purchase gift certificates at the market. They are available at the information table, Calam said, ?in most any amount, and may be brought to the information booth to be reimbursed for $5 tokens.?

This summer?thanks to grant funding?Vision card holders may buy anything edible at market, including food-producing plants/herbs, Calam said, adding, ?We are in a two-year trial in the use of this program.?

Looking ahead

As the summer months progress, shoppers will find new items available at the Hillsboro Farmers Market.

?Our vendors make up our market and we appreciate those who have been with us from the start, as well as our newest vendors,? Calam said. ?We also appreciate the added interest the one-time and occasional vendors bring to our market. Everyone is welcome.?

For information about becoming a vendor at the Hillsboro Farmers? Market, call Joni Calam at 947-0270.

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Centre FFA members compete at district events
Centre FFA Members traveled to Ark City Dec. 6 to participate in...
Read More