Southeast Missouri farmers markets in full swing

Friday, June 8, 2012
Diane Weaver sells baked goods to Virginia Bilek Wednesday, May 3, 2012 at the Cape Girardeau farmers market. (Fred Lynch)

The start of June means area farmers markets are open and in full swing. And, even with drought-like weather conditions and an early growing season somewhat affecting what's available, so far people are coming out in droves to get their locally produced products at markets in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Marble Hill, Mo. and Perryville, Mo.

"Attendance has been outstanding, and people seem to be very satisfied with our vendors and their products. We didn't expect as many as we've had, and that's great news for our area's producers," said Grant Gillard, Jackson farmers market president. "I go to the other area markets, as well, and it seems like this is the case for everyone. Communities are really embracing the advantages of getting what they can at their local farmers markets."

More than food

Most area markets sell things like produce and flowers, while some also sell baked goods and crafts. But although the items available are similar, markets try to draw customers in their own way.

The Bollinger County Market in Marble Hill takes place every Saturday morning, and the organizers say they want to make sure you can find more than fruits and vegetables.

Jackson Farmers Market (Laura Simon)

"I'm pretty sure ours is the only local farmers market that sells small farm animals like chickens, sheep and rabbits. We also like to look for sellers that offer things we don't see anywhere else," said Barbara Bailey, vendor and former manager of the Bollinger County Market. "People tend to think about the food when they think about the local markets. But here, food sometimes takes a back seat to the animals, soaps and plants."

Rozz Fusilier, who helps organize the Riverfront Market in Cape Girardeau, said location is what sets their market apart.

"We are right in the middle of downtown, which gives us a beautiful backdrop," Fusilier said. "It's not just the beauty, though. People can easily go from our market to the downtown shops and restaurants, so you can make an entire day of it. And we really strive to book great live entertainment for our customers, which gives everyone extra incentive to come."

Size doesn't matter

The Riverfront Market includes about 25 seasonal vendors every week, along with additional daily vendors selling a variety of products including farm-fresh produce, organic products, baked goods, jams and crafts. All products are locally grown, produced or prepared. And, along with the live entertainment, weekly demonstrations are performed for patrons.

Les Lindy shows a couple of 3 1/2-pound sweet potatoes for sale at the farmers market Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Cape Girardeau actually boasts two of the area's biggest markets, with Riverfront Market on Saturday mornings, and the city's other farmers market that takes place every Thursday in the Plaza Galleria parking lot. The weekday market's items are grown or produced within a 75-mile radius of Cape Girardeau.

"I go to both Cape markets every week, and seldom have to buy produce from the bigger retail stores," Esther Little said. "You really miss them when they close."

As for the Jackson market, Gillard said even though there are fewer vendors than some of the others, they have a more relaxed environment and credits the market's move from courthouse square to Jackson City Park.

"We now have a place where you can spend a relaxing afternoon. The kids can play in the park while parents shop and talk," Gillard said. "We still have most everything as far as food and such, but being in the park has noticeably improved the experience for customers."

Area market managers say, big or small, the importance and impact of the markets on farmers and communities is immeasurable.

"The markets really give people an opportunity to talk to the growers about the food they are buying and eating, and learn about the farm to table process. Farmers appreciate it, too, because they don't often get a chance to interact with the people they are feeding," Fusilier said. "Keeping it all local helps everyone, and we are lucky to have the markets we have around here."

There are plenty of chances to get to a local market. Area farmers markets are open four days a week. The Jackson farmers market takes place every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m., the Cape Girardeau market Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m., and Perryville market Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday is the busiest market day, with Riverfront, Bollinger County and Perryville markets open from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information on these and other markets, visit farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Missouri.htm, visitcape.com/farmersmarkets.aspx, and semoevents.com.

Farmers market hotspots

What: Cape Girardeau Riverfront Market

Where: Downtown Cape Girardeau

When: 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Oct. 27

Information: 334-8085

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What: Cape Girardeau farmers market

Where: Plaza Galleria parking lot

When: 2 to 6 p.m. every Thursday through Nov. 15

Information: 334-7676

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What: Jackson Farmers Market

Where: Jackson City Park by the band shell

When: 4 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Aug. 28

Information: 587-1623

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What: Bollinger County Market

Where: In Marble Hill, Mo. behind the co-op

When: 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Oct. 27

Information: 573-238-2143

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What: Perryville Local Foods Market

Where: City park next to Park Center

When: Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 to 11 a.m. through October

Information: 573-547-7275

jsamons@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

2001 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

35 South Spanish St., Cape Girardeau, MO

E Independence St, Jackson, MO

200 State Highway 34 E, Marble Hill, MO

800 City Park Dr, Perryville, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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