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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Refreshing way to shop for groceries

Friday, June 25, 2004

Barbara Blanton and Marie Lawson buy some fresh vegetables from Edith Riggins and Carolyn Schott.
SIKESTON - Are you looking for a place to find garden-fresh, locally grown produce? If so, you should plan a trip to the Sikeston Farmers' Market.

The Farmers' Market is held at the Sikeston Depot Museum, located at 116 West Malone Ave. On Saturday mornings during the growing season, usually from May to October, vendors arrive and are setting up shop by 8 a.m.. They set up their goods on the back of their vehicles or on tables under the awning.

Customers should come out early to choose from the best selection of produce. Due to rising temperatures and selling out of produce, vendors typically fold up shop by noon.

A wide range of fresh produce in season is available. "It usually starts out as lettuce, radishes, onions and mustard greens," said Carolyn Schott, a regular vendor from Oran. Schott enjoys participating in the Farmers' Market and views it as a good way to make some extra money. "It's a lot of hard work, but it keeps you in shape," she said.

Right now, several other goods are available, including purple hull peas, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and squash. "Corn and okra are just starting. There isn't enough to sell, but should be soon," Schott said.

Seasonal and other unique products are also available for sale.

"Local farmers also sell fresh-picked blueberries, honey, heirloom blooming plants, home-made herbal soaps and other farm products," said Delilah Tayloe, curator at the Sikeston Depot Museum.

Maria Lawson, a customer from Sikeston, loves the market not only for the products available but also for the memories. "My husband used to make a good garden for me for many, many years," she said. "When I moved up here, I was looking for some good produce."

Barbara Blanton, Lawson's friend, invited her to visit the market with her. Lawson said she fell in love with the Market and plans to visit again. "I was so happy. Fresh squash, fresh tomatoes. ... I felt like I was home again," she said.

Lawson was also excited to find one of her favorite vegetables: "string beans ... oh, I love them," she said. Lawson would pick the Farmers' Market over the store any day. "I don't know if it is just my imagination, but to me, I like it fresh," she said.

Schott agreed: "Just come taste and see and you'll know the difference.

Tayloe explained that buying from local producers at the Farmers' Market is a strong American tradition. This custom keeps money in the area and supports the local economy, since all of the produce is grown within a 40 to 50 mile radius of Sikeston.

"You are building your neighbors and strengthening the family farm by buying products that are from a family farm," she said.

Dr. Mary Grigsby, assistant professor in the Rural Sociology Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia, elaborated on the benefits of a Farmers' Market. "The obvious benefits are that buying at the Farmers' Market gives the consumer high quality, fresh, delicious and healthy food to eat and keeps money in the local economy," she said.

"You are assured that you will get fresh produce, often picked just that morning," Tayloe said. "Frequently, the local grower will not be using a lot of the strong chemicals, pesticides and herbicides commercial growers would use, so the possibility of being chemical free is far more."

Grigsby also suggested a closeness of family and community members that is developed through a Farmers' Market. "It helps families continue in the tradition of farming. Being entrepreneurial and building close relationships with consumers in the local area helps smaller farms do well."

"We like to meet people," Schott agreed. She described a good relationship with fellow vendors and regular customers.

"Anyone who wishes to participate in selling or buying at the market has the opportunity - we encourage everyone to come check it out," Tayloe said. The Depot would like to see more participation in the Farmers' Market, from both vendors and customers.

In order to sell goods, a vendor needs to go to the City Collector's office at the Sikeston City Hall to purchase a license. Licenses are available for varying lengths of time, from one day to one year.

"We're trying to build up our vendors," Tayloe said. So far, we have five or six, but the more people that participate, the bigger it can be."