Cheyenne County Farmers' Market

Posted date: Aug 30, 2021

by: Admin My Local Life
Written by Olivia H.
From the Land of Kansas

Reprint: original article can be found here:

Right off Main Street in the town of St. Francis, Kansas, sits the town's city park. Every Saturday, community members gather to help set up tables, and vendors begin setting up beautiful displays of their products they've either grown, raised, made or crafted. Soon, fellow community members show up to enjoy a hot breakfast, shop each of their friends' booths, and socialize.

St. Francis hasn't always been able to have a farmers' market; in fact, this is their third try. But they seem to be doing something right because the 2021 season is their third year of the Cheyenne County Farmers' Market since bringing the market back.

"I think it really helps having a good board," said market director Jason Padgett.

When reflecting on why the board helps to ensure a successful market, market secretary Bernadette Mills said, "We're all like-minded individuals. Having a farmers' market is an opportunity for me to get together with those people that have the same values and the same goals that I have. It's really my social event of the week."

This seems to be a trend for the communities that host farmers’ markets. It's more than just tomatoes and fresh bread (though that brings people too). "It's the networking and the socialization aspect that I think really brings the vendors, and a lot of customers too," said Mills.

Typically, someone brings a hot breakfast, then someone else will bring coffee.

Vendors, however, at the Cheyenne County Market sell a variety of unique products. "People bring their passions," said Mills.

One of their vendors loves educating people about everyday plants that grow around our houses by bringing a soup made from them. They have another vendor who is passionate about a vegan lifestyle and eating micro-greens. He brings fresh juices.

"We have all these people with all these dynamic backgrounds coming together under this umbrella of local, healthy food," said Mills. Meat, eggs, greens, and more fresh foods are available.

They also have some non-food vendors. One of the vendors makes her own essential oils, and another vendor buys some and makes soaps to sell at the market.

Regarding her own products, Mills said, "I'll have strawberry rhubarb jam made with strawberries from another vendor, and rhubarb from another — it's everybody working together as a community."

"People will do their shopping and then spend the next hour hanging out and talking to all the vendors and socializing," Padgett said.

One of the things that can be difficult for many farmers' markets is that many kinds of produce are not ready until later in the season. Many of the Cheyenne County vendors have been getting creative so they can still have products to sell early in the farmers' market season.

Mills said that one way to get creative is to freeze vegetables from the previous year to sell during spring/early summer markets. Vendors should also consider selling winter storage items such as squashes and parsnips. Finally, Mills suggests making value-added items such as jellies.

Mills gets excited about pop-up vendors too. One pop-up vendor brought homemade tortillas. "They were fabulous," she said. They also have had sweet corn vendors. "Honestly, they were only there for about a half an hour before they sold out," Mills said.

Last year, the market was able to get a grant. They used the grant for tables and chairs, so the first ten vendors to arrive on market day borrow tables and chairs for their products.

Once all the customers have gone through, sometimes the vendors end up bartering their own products between one another. "That’s fun," said Mills. Padgett said it’s also a great opportunity for crafters to sell their products.

As a board, they chose not to have products that would turn their market into a "flea market." "We made a rule that it had to be something that you grew or made," said Mills.

Their market is succeeding this time because of their board and having a paid coordinator. The coordinator works 10 hours a week to accomplish anything that week that needs done regarding the market, including social media posts, marketing, trying to get new vendors, and sending out a summary letter each week.

They are also helping their vendors by doing their taxes. "It's a major convenience for the vendors and actually not that big of a hassle for us at all," Padgett said.

They also have a website where people can sign up to become a vendor, and it doubles as an online store where vendors can pre-sell their products for customers to pick up on Saturdays.

The Cheyenne County Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. - noon. until the end of September. Come visit them at the St. Francis City Park and like them on Facebook!
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