To find the pick of the season, some surprising treasures and a chance to sustain area businesses, go no further than your local farmers market.
Whether the market is packed to the brim with vendors or a small number of local artisans and farmers, a farmers market is a great place to purchase locally sourced produce and handcrafted products while building community ties.
“It’s fun for everybody; there’s something for everybody. It’s a good way to meet your neighbors and support local businesses,” said Kristine Gadomski-Summerlot, creator or Our Family Soap, www.ourfamilysoap.com and vendor at the Centerville, Sugarcreek and Webster Street farmers markets.
Says Brian Rayburn, a first-year vendor at the farmers markets in Centerville and Huber Heights, farmers markets give people a chance to find unique products. “It’s a great way to make the community stronger. People like stopping and talking to owners, farmers, and they get to ask questions they can’t ask in the grocery store.” Rayburn owns Miami Valley Spice Traders in Centerville.
Farmers markets can boast an array of vendors helping you to check off the items on your shopping list.
“At the Centerville Farmers Market, we have such a variety — meat and eggs, fruits and vegetables, bread and honey, spices and oils — it all sells quickly on market day. Fresh cut flowers are also popular,” said Jennifer S. Wilder, assistant to the city manager, City of Centerville. “We have sprouts and wheat grasses, homemade and handmade chocolates, dog treats and soaps, plus local honey, many varieties of fresh baked breads and rolls, sometimes even spelt and cereals.”
Sally Skelly, who manages the farmers market for Sugarcreek Twp., says that the season dictates what’s popular at the market.
“Right now strawberries are in season so there are a lot of berries being sold. There will be blueberries in a few weeks. Later in the season, sweet corn will be popular, then pumpkins,” Skelly said. “Baked goods are always a hit.”
Bison, goat and milk options contribute to the over 50 vendors at the 2nd Street Market, according to Bethany Ramsey, event coordinator at the 2nd Street Market, www.metroparks.org/Parks/SecondStreetMarket.
“We like to say we have all the staples to make a sandwich — the lettuce, tomato, meat, bread and now a glass of milk,” Ramsey said. “We have prepared food vendors — a lot of people come down for lunch. You can come as a group and then pick and choose. There are lots of different options here.”
To make the most of your visit, shop with a plan and don’t rush. “I recommend don’t buy on impulse, the first thing you see. Take your time and walk through the market. Then when you backtrack, you will have in your mind what you want,” Gadomski-Summerlot said. “Don’t be afraid to barter or haggle. Not everyone is willing to bargain; don’t be offended if someone won’t, but don’t be afraid to ask.”
Be inquisitive. “Don’t be shy at a farmers market. Ask the vendor questions about where the food comes from, what is the best way to eat it, serve it, cook it. They usually have some great ideas and recipes to share,” Wilder said.
Jan Monahan, owner of Good Dog Biscuit Company, Centerville, www.gooddogbiscuitcompany.com, and farmers market vendor, suggests customers get to know the vendors and let them know you appreciate their time and trouble, and to always bring your own reusable bags.
Don’t hit the snooze button on market day. “Go early. You will have the best selection and be able to get a jump on the best that the market has to offer. You can also find some hidden gems in limited-availability items,” Rayburn said. “Bring cash. Using a debit or credit card, the vendor has to pay a percentage to the company processing the card. With cash, the vendor gets the full sale.”
Skelly advises wearing comfortable shoes, applying sunscreen, bringing a bottle of water to drink and to have fun.
Interacting with customers and each other makes being a vendor a special experience. “I love talking to everyone, and a very close second is seeing their faces when they taste our samples. I love buying from the other vendors and knowing that they take our products home, as well — there are some great relationships developed between vendors,” Rayburn said. “As a result of the market and those relationships, some of the smaller vendors now have a chance to get into a brick and mortar store as well, expand their brand and make more sales with the added visibility. It’s all about community — all ships rise with the tide.”