Jackson Farmers Market set to open May 1 with new attractions

Monday, April 16, 2012
Sharon Penrod trims the stems from fresh wildflowers June 10, 2010, at the Cape Girardeau farmer’s market. Penrod and her husband Monte sell homemade baked goods, jellies and fresh produce at the Jackson Farmers Market. (Laura Simon)

The Jackson farmers market will kick off May 1 and is working to attract new vendors and visitors.

Sharon Penrod and her husband, Monte, sell baked goods and jellies she makes on their farm northwest of Neelys Landing, and she has been active in helping think of ways to grow Jackson's market. There are fewer fresh produce vendors than organizers would like to see alongside the stalls selling handmade soaps, fresh jams, homemade baked items and plants, she said.

Penrod encourages farmers, home gardeners and students to consider joining the "warm, welcoming group of vendors" who will sell their wares Tuesday afternoons at the band-shell parking lot at Jackson City Park beginning in a few weeks. She said a new fee structure this year will give people a range of opportunities, from participating just once for $15 to buying a seasonal membership for $100. A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. today in the basement of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson to provide information on how to become part of the market.

Penrod made her first foray into the market when she found herself with two wheelbarrows full of butternut squash and knew it was too much for her to use. She said selling is an opportunity for young people to learn about business, including planning for the weekly event and making cash transactions. Her business has grown so much that she is now opening The Pie Safe bakery in Pocahontas.

Besides a place to get a business education, Penrod said, the market helps people to get in touch with what kinds of produce are grown locally and are in season. The worldwide fruit and vegetable trade has diminished people's knowledge of what grows when in this part of the world, she said.

The market moved last year from the courthouse square to Jackson City Park. Penrod said the new location is a superb place to spend a relaxing afternoon. Children can play in the park while parents shop and talk with other visitors.

"People gather there and have conversations," Penrod said. "It's what a market used to be in the olden days, when people used to congregate at a general store."

The most enjoyable part for her, she said, is getting to know her customers. She said listening to their dietary needs has prompted her to create gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan options to fit their lifestyles. Penrod said that vendors welcome questions about farming practices and ingredients and are open to input about what kinds of things people would like to see grown and sold.

One way the market is actively trying to keep in touch with customer needs is through technology and social media. The Jackson farmers market and some individual sellers maintain Facebook pages that notify site visitors of particular things that will be available each week.

A new trend is for farmers markets to accept EBT transactions, debit-type cards granted to low-income families, to encourage people on public assistance to buy healthy, local produce. The number of markets across the country increased from 1,744 in 1994 to 7,175 in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, and the federal government has been working to license markets nationwide to accept public benefits programs as a strategy to combat health problems by increasing access to nutritious foods.

Penrod said the Jackson market "would be very open to that" as well as using regular debit cards. She said that the new riverfront farmers market that will start next month in Cape Girardeau is working toward using that technology. Farmers who sell at both sites will have the opportunity to learn what is involved.

Prices at the farmers market are comparable to grocery stores, if not lower, Penrod said. Plus, unlike the grocery store, "you can actually meet, greet and talk to the person" who grew your food and be sure the produce was recently harvested.

"You can't get any fresher," Penrod said.

Local farmers markets:

* Jackson farmers market, 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Jackson City Park band-shell parking lot near Shelter 5, May 1 to Sept. 25

* Cape Girardeau farmers market, 2 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, Plaza Galleria parking lot, starting April 19.

* Cape Riverfront Market, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, 335 S. Spanish St., May 5 to Oct. 27

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

Pertinent address:

Jackson City Park, Jackson, MO

2001 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

335 South Spanish St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Capaha Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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