The Reno County Farmers’ Market is hot this year, and not just the temperature.
Stop by the pavilion at the corner of Washington and Second Avenue on a Saturday morning, and you might be hard pressed to find an immediate parking spot. The people milling around and the lines of customers waiting for their produce of choice are proof of the market’s popularity, and their cheerful faces and happy conversations are reminders that this is no ordinary grocery experience.
“If you’re not at market…you’re missing out,” said Adam Moore, a new farmers market manager. “It’s great to know all the vendors and be a part of making market happen.”
Though it’s his first year in this role, Moore has been a vendor for five years, so he’s no stranger to selling fresh produce.
Where else can you buy a child-size rocking chair, carrots with the greens attached, a six-pack of cinnamon rolls, crocheted cats and a variety of honey sticks — everything homegrown, handmade, and local? And all under one roof (albeit no walls).
There is an invigorating blend of tradition and innovation offered at the farmers market.
Esther Yoder, Pam Polk and Sheila Corn have sold at the market for 37 years, ever since it was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1985. These three vendors are considered the charter members, providing the community with their quality baked goods, preserves and produce for decades. Yoder said she has a customer who started buying her bread that first year, and he hasn’t stopped.
In contrast to the longstanding members, new vendors pop up every season. Sometimes they stay for the whole year, and sometimes they fluctuate. It’s the perfect mix because you know you can count on the regulars, but it’s always fun to see who else and what else is there each time.
Several new vendors this year have stepped out of the agricultural and culinary realms, reaching into the area of self-care: bath bombs, lotions, soaps and beard oils.
We should technically consider all of the market offerings as self-care, though. Tie-dye shirts, flavored hummus, kettle corn and fresh herbs all fit clearly into that category.
The list of potential buys at Hutchinson’s farmers market extends far beyond vegetables, but those still remain a major attraction. It’s hard, if not impossible, to beat a homegrown tomato.
In fact, tomatoes are consistently a best seller. The past weeks’ excessive heat has negatively affected these crops’ production, as well as green beans and other more sensitive plants, so they are apt to sell out even quicker than normal — especially since customers tend to wilt in the heat as well, and are therefore doing their shopping earlier in the morning.
The good news is this heat is actually good for melons and sweet corn, Moore said.
We can all attest to cold juicy watermelon and tender sweet corn on the cob being the perfect antidote to summer’s swelter.
Donna Miller of Don and Donna’s Produce said their bell and snacking peppers are “amazing” right now, too. Their crate loaded to the brim with a rainbow of peppers in green, yellow, orange and red is as beautiful as a bouquet of flowers.
Just one stall over, Spare Farms sells an actual flower bouquets. Though not an edible component of the market, the vases of eye-catching flower arrangements have been invariably selling out. They are at the top of the shopping list for Henry and Jo Beugelsdijk, who return the vase and buy another bouquet each time they come, keeping the beautiful cycle going.
Local musicians add another layer to this celebration of buying local. Live music from community talent can be heard on Saturday mornings. Many children can usually be found dancing to it.
It is a challenging commitment for local farmers and producers to show up every week, harvesting and baking and creating to provide Hutchinson with the 26-week season of Reno County Farmers’ Market. But in doing so, they give us things even more valuable than simply the sum of all their products — they help us foster community spirit, strong local connections, healthy interactions between producers and consumers and the joy of eating in season.