The Hillsboro Farmers Market, now in its fourth year, continues to evolve with a variety of vendor products during the summer-long season.
Four towns in Marion County have adopted some type of farmers? market, and each is in varying stages of development.
The longest running market started in 1999 at Peabody, according to Debbie McSweeney, president of the Peabody group.
Four years ago, sisters Joni Calam and Sheryl Lehr agreed to take on the challenge in Hillsboro. This year, both Tampa and Marion started markets.
In Peabody, the market is from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Hillsboro?s market is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Marion?s and Tampa?s are on Wednesdays?Marion from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Tampa from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Gary and Marilyn Jones are credited with getting the farmers? market going in Peabody, Debbie McSweeney said.
?We needed a community farmers? market,? she said, ?and while we are still not a big market, we are like a family with tables set up next to one another.?
The idea is not to undercut each other, she said, but to offer customers a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, plants and other items made or grown in Kansas.
?We are always looking for new vendors, too, after losing two long-time veterans,? she said.
Marty Nellans of Burns, one of the original vendors, and Martin and Sonya Koslowsky, outside of Peabody, both retired this year. Together, it was a big loss in vendors providing fresh vegetables and baked goods.
?It takes a lot of dedication,? McSweeney said. ?I get up at 4 a.m. to bake scones (the day of the sale).?
McSweeney said she hopes to find some new prospects in the coming weeks. The cost for a table is $5 per Saturday, she said, and there?s also a community booth available any weekend from now through Labor Day.
If someone isn?t sure they want to commit to coming each week, the community booth is a one-time free offer.
Fruits and vegetables are available in their season.
?Right now,? she said, ?it?s blackberries, sour cherries, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.?
In addition to selling scones, McSweeney said she offers homemade lotions, soaps and lip balm.
?It?s all natural,? she said.
Marilyn Jones brings flower bouquets and other vendors will sell an array of breads, cinnamon rolls, fruit rolls and pies.
?One person is even known for her angel food cakes,? McSweeney said.
Peabody vendors can be found at Sante Fe Park at the south end of the downtown business district.
For more information, call McSweeney at 620-983-9234.
Beginning the first Thursday in May and continuing through the last Thursday in September, the farmers? market in Hillsboro has continued to be successful.
?We were asked to coordinate a farmers? market by the Business Promotion Committee (of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce),? Sheryl Lehr said.
?We had a vision from what we saw in Oregon,? Lehr said. ?Live music, food and not a lot of (non-political) rules and regulations served as a starting point.?
The first year, the market was set up in an empty lot at Grand and Washington streets and vendors were spread out.
From the second year until now, the Schaeffler House yard would become the permanent home for Hillsboro?s market.
?That first year there were four or five various types of vendors,? Lehr said. ?Some came and tried it and didn?t come back.?
Joni Calam said the market offered baked goods, vegetables, fruits, plants, kettle corn, fresh eggs, seeds and more.
As the market continues to expand, Lehr said it?s important to educate vendors and customers about what can and cannot be sold.
According to the Kansas Rural Center, she said, no foods made with cream cheese can be sold and no cooked bierocks, unless made using 2 percent beef or less.
Meat cannot be sold, Lehr said, unless it?s by a certified processor.
?We would love to have someone sell frozen meats,? she said, ?as long as someone is a certified meat processor.?
Both Lehr and Calam agree that most regulations are intended to protect vendors and consumers.
Something new this year, Lehr said, is the acceptance of the Vision Card, which means low and no-income families have a rare chance at acquiring USDA-recommended fresh fruits and vegetables.
?We really need more vendors, maybe more vegetables and fruits,? she said. ?But then we can?t speed up gardens, either.?
In addition to homemade breads and baked goods, garden fruits and vegetables, Hillsboro?s market includes vendors selling maple syrup and North Dakota potatoes. Each week offers customers new surprises.
?Bring lawn chairs and stay to hear the music and jam,? Lehr said.
Anyone wanting to be part of the Hillsboro Farmers? Market, can call Lehr at 947-1715 or Calam at 947-0270 for details.
Greg Carlson was asked by the Marion Chamber?s Retail Sales Committee to coordinate a farmers? market.
?We tried a Saturday market,? Carlson said, ?but it didn?t work out.?
Carlson said he visited an open-air market in London called the ?Car Boot & Fruit Sale,? which was in a church parking lot. Items were literally sold from car trunks, he said.
Even though he owns a grocery store in Marion and many might see a market as direct competition, Carlson said he doesn?t.
?I am hoping (the market) draws more excitement to Marion and stimulates sales,? he said. ?It keeps getting better all the time and people need to come and check it out.?
In fact, many of the products at the farmers? market are right off the fields, he said.
In recent weeks, farm-fresh catfish has been for sale, along with more baked goods and the weekly meal sponsored by a different organization.
?There?s no cost to set up at the Boot & Fruit,? Carlson said, ?and we keep trying to make it fun for everyone.?
The Tampa Community Association has organized its farmers? market at no charge to vendors and with an added bonus.
?If temperatures are extreme outside,? said Michelle Berens, one of the coordinators, ?we will move everything into the Tampa Senior Center.?
Started the first of June and continuing through August, Berens said new items keep arriving at the market.
?Vendors sell baked goods, arts and crafts, vegetables, fruits and farm-fresh eggs,? she said. There are no restrictions placed on what someone wants to sell.
Different groups also prepare a meal each week and market organizers are always looking for more vendors. The event is located north of the Senior Center in downtown Tampa.
In all four communities, the farmers? market has been something that local residents can rally around.
Whether people go to Tampa, Hillsboro, Marion or Peabody, the markets offer a casual atmosphere, the enticement of open-air commerce and fresh goods that make the end result satisfying.
?It all adds to the ambience of what makes a farmers? market unique,? Lehr said.