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Market on the Square

Posted Monday, July 21, 2008, at 7:15 AM

Editor's note: This column originally was published in March in a special section of The Marshall Democrat-News, "Progress in Motion," that focused on the Marshall square. We're republishing it because several volunteers are in the process of organizing a farmer's market to coincide the downtown merchants' sidewalk sale Aug. 2.

There are well over 100 cities with farmer's markets across the state of Missouri , according to information on the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Web site.

Marshall isn't one of them.

So the question is -- why?

Here we sit in the middle of the nation's breadbasket, and in order to get fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which are grown nearby, our only choices are supermarkets selling produce from hundreds or even thousands of miles away -- or, if you're willing to drive more than 25 miles, farmer's markets in other towns.

There are some sellers of fresh produce who gather on an irregular

schedule in the parking lot at Aldi's on the south side of town.

That is not a farmer's market.

That is an unorganized group of individual entrepreneurs who are allowed to operate at the whim of the property owner. I'm glad it's there, although it's not always convenient for me personally, but it's not quite what I had in mind.

A farmer's market is an entirely different breed of cat.

A true farmer's market is a well-organized and regulated venue, often

in a central downtown area, which offers opportunities for a large number of local growers and producers of a variety of products to sell their wares on a local level.

The key word is "local" -- locally grown and locally sold. That's the trend in food on a nationwide level.

Since I moved to Marshall two years ago, I've asked almost everyone I've met why there is no local farmer's market in a town the size of Marshall and if they would patronize one if it existed.

Many people are enthusiastic about the idea, but I'm often met with quizzical stares, discussion about the "existing" farmer's market, or objections that range from "we used to have one but it didn't work out," to "there are legal issues."

If there used to be a farmer's market, there can be one again.

If there legal issues, and of course, there are -- safe and reliable food supplies are a key element in the American lifestyle -- let's look for ways to address and solve those problems.

It's not as if we'd have to go it alone.

Missouri Department of Agriculture has a full-blown program to assist towns and cities interested in the farmer's market idea, including workshops on how to get one going. The state is promoting what's being called "Agri-tourism" as a way to assist producers to expand their businesses.

There is grant money available on the national level through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration to help with the cost.

Studies have shown that those who patronize farmer's markets are doing so because they prefer to have fresh, locally-grown quality produce on their table.

But a farmer's market need not be confined to fresh fruits and vegetables -- the range of products that can be sold is very broad.

Consider fresh flowers, shrubs and green plants, vegetable and flower bedding plants, fresh herbs, honey, cheese, baskets, wine, jams and jellies, eggs, coffees and teas, artisan breads, and who could leave out barbecue? It's a very long list already, and I'm sure I'm missing other ideas.

Go to http://tinyurl.com/32tw5x for a complete list of saleable fruits and vegetables, season by season, for the state of Missouri. It's not just corn and soybeans.

If you've ever been to a farmer's market -- Columbia , Kansas City and Warrensburg all have one -- you know what a unique experience it is.

Ideally, it's not just about the available goods.

It's also about a central gathering place that includes mingling with the local community and socializing with family and friends old and new. It can include art and music, and bring a vibrant spirit to life that's often missing in our busy, busy world.

Marshall is uniquely blessed with an ideal location that just begs for a farmer's market.

What better place could there be than the courthouse square?

Let me put together what at first will appear to be a list of unrelated facts.

--There is great interest locally in getting our young people to stay here instead of moving to larger cities.

--We want to have better employment opportunities for everyone.

--We want to develop local opportunities for entrepreneurs.

--We want to increase the number of tourists who come here.

--We want more local businesses.

--According to some sources, 60 percent or more of the money spent at local businesses stays in the community, while a mere 30 percent of the money spent at non-local businesses goes elsewhere.

So what does that have to do with a farmer's market on the square?

--The courthouse square is centrally located, not just in the city, but in the county.

--It's easily accessible from I-70.

--It has plenty of room on all four streets, with ample parking nearby.

--It has existing retail businesses, with room for more.

--Now that the renovation of our lovely courthouse is underway, it's only a matter of time before it becomes a tourist destination. Saline County Courthouse is, after all, one of just two in the United States like it, an outstanding example of late 19th century architecture.

--An increase in tourism, based on the courthouse and a viable farmer's market, brings more people to the square, which means more people looking for something to do nearby.

--Putting more people in the downtown area boosts the retail businesses already there and perhaps generates interest in placing more retail businesses in that location or near it.

A farmer's market can be the start of bringing more tourist dollars to local businesses, insuring their viability, increasing oportunities for entrepreneurship at the local level and giving our young people a reason to stay here.

Is it something easily done?

No, of course not.

It takes time to get it started and more time to keep it going. But if we do nothing, then that's what we'll get -- nothing.

We can continue wringing our hands over the problems faced not just by the city of Marshall and Saline County but by rural communities across the U.S. , or we can jump in and do something about it.

Who's for jumping in?

Showing most recent comments first
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Way to go Kathy!

-- Posted by writerintraining on Mon, Aug 4, 2008, at 5:39 PM

OKReader - It went GREAT! Not without a bump or two, but nothing goes exactly the way it's been planned. We had many, many positive comments from shoppers, vendors and merchants on the square. Several of the vendors sold out before 11:00, a very good sign that this is something people in Marshall and the surrounding area want and will support. We hope to do even better with the next two markets, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 4. As we firm up the schedule, we'll be letting everyone know. Our thanks to all the vendors, the shoppers, the merchants, and to the city of Marshall and the Saline County Commission for allowing us to give this a try!

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sat, Aug 2, 2008, at 3:09 PM

Kathy, no one should accuse you of being all talk and no action. Let us all know how the market on the square turned out. If I was in Marshall I would be there.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Jul 31, 2008, at 12:28 AM

salinemg: There will be a "Market Square" farmer's market in Marshall Saturday, Aug. 2, from 7 to 11 a.m. on the east side of the courthouse. We hope to have local vendors and music. And there are additional plans to make this a weekly event in the near future. We'll be looking for you!

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Wed, Jul 23, 2008, at 8:45 AM

I'm all for it! Last Sunday at Church I talked to a lady and she said she just bought a peach at Walmart. I said that she should have gone to Waverly for peaches. She said that it was too far. The peaches at the stores were picked so green and then gassed to bring on some color. They are never as sweet as the locally grown peaches.

I will tell you that the peaches in Lafayette County, especially Waverly are soooooo sweet this year and they say that there is a bumper crop.

My family and I go every other week to get Peaches, Apples, Melons, Jelly, Potatoes, Green Beans, Bread, Rolls and other pastries. I think that it is part trip to the market and part mini vacation. Heck, you can even go by a winery or two.

What could be better! our own farmer's market. Hey Eric, Kathy and even Marcia you all head up starting up the farmer's market and I will be there with money in hand to purchase the local produce along with all the entertainment!

Shop Local, Buy Local, Then you get to keep your "Local"!

-- Posted by salinemg on Tue, Jul 22, 2008, at 6:25 PM

I have lived all over this country and I can tell you there are still small farmers! There is also a program for them check out http://www.localharvest.org/ for Community Supported Agriculture . We have one here in Maryland and I can not wait to join next year. In short it is a program where community members buy a share of a farmer or (in our case) farmers crop before the season starts . In our case we will get a box of veggies from June to Oct. that is to feed a family of four. We pick it up at the farmers market once a week. I think it is very cool.

-- Posted by anmd160 on Tue, Jul 22, 2008, at 3:21 PM

I think a Farmer's market is a great idea. Look at the people selling at the old Walmart parking lot. There were 6 or 7 today. I know lots of kids and adults too, that come in the early mornings with sweet corn and pumpkins (in season) until they sell out.

I do think farmer's markets can help small and "truck" farmers find a niche market, something good for all of us.

JJ- No "real" farmers, I disagree. We just happen to raise "field corn" which is used mostly for animal feed and ethanol. My husband's family never raised sweet corn to sell, only for their own use, just like we do now.

Oh and about the air conditioning - ever try to drive a cabbed tractor without it? Talk about a sweat shop. Tractors over a certain size (and all combines) are all now made with cabs for safety reasons.

Of course farmers are businessmen - they have to be or they wouldn't still be farming.

Are farmers supposed to stay in the 1950's while the rest of the U.S. jumps into the 21st century? Most cars (or houses) weren't air conditioned back then either.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Mon, Jul 21, 2008, at 7:03 PM

NanaDot - don't worry about the double post - we can fix that.

I'm pretty excited about this, too. And if it leads to more development, including development of that interesting little building at the railroad track, I'm all for it.

This first attempt might not be a home run, since there isn't a lot of time to get organized, but it's hoped this will be just the beginining of an annual, weekly event from spring through fall.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Mon, Jul 21, 2008, at 3:24 PM

I remember thinking the same thing when we moved to town a few years ago. Why no farmer's market?

We came from Champaign, Ill. and its sister city, Urbana, hosted a farmer's market that we went to almost every week.

They had rows of produce sellers, people selling baked goods, trinkets, hand-crafted goods from toys to quilts, artists selling their work or doing portraits on the spot. There was face-painting, balloons, games for kids. Church groups held fundraisers. Service organizations and political groups had booths. There was food and fun and information.

And music.

For me, the music was the draw. There were high school kids playing band instruments solo with a box to collect tips, an effort to raise money for college. There were little bands of two or three or four people playing old-time or bluegrass music. There were solo fiddlers or guitarists. And there were singers sharing their songs.

It was very cool, a weekly, free concert. It was more like a small festival than just a "market," even though the market was the heart of the event.

I don't expect a Saline County farmer's market will be just like Urbana's because the two places are different. But I bet it'll be great in its very own way & I can't wait to see what it becomes.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Mon, Jul 21, 2008, at 9:26 AM

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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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