New vendors increase offerings at local farmers' market

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Farmers' market family Democrat Photo Stephanie Fuller, of Purdy, is serving as a vendor at the Garden Sass Farmers' Market in Cassville this summer. Fuller's children, Parker, 10, Mackenzie, 9, and Kamden, 1, located sell a variety of produce at the market each week. Garden Sass, which is held on Mineral Springs Road in the Cassville City Park, is open from 7 to 11 a.m. each Tuesday and Friday.

In addition to a lot of familiar faces, those who visit the Garden Sass Farmers' Market in Cassville will have the opportunity to meet some new members of the local gardening community. The current state of the economy has inspired several younger families to join the local farmers' market effort.

"My husband lost his job last January, so we decided to try gardening," said Stephanie Fuller, of Purdy. "He loves to garden, so we just ran with it."

Stephanie's husband, James, learned about Garden Sass through Facebook. After getting in touch with Sherry Tucker, one of the market's regular vendors, the Fullers began selling at the local venue every week.

Stephanie, who also sells produce at the Pierce City, Aurora and Shell Knob farmers' markets, allows her children, Parker, 10, Mackenzie, 9 and Kamden, 1, to visit the markets with her throughout the week.

"When my husband was working in construction, he didn't have much time to maintain a garden," said Stephanie. "After he lost his job and now that he has an office job, he has more time. Now, he comes home, and we all go out and play in the garden.

"It's a good thing that they are doing here," said Stephanie, "and we are glad to be a part of it."

In the fall, Stephanie will return to her full-time job as a teacher at the Purdy R-2 School District, but other vendors are planning to continue to sell produce at Garden Sass through October.

Tucker, who has been selling at the market for several years, has built a hoop house on her property, located between Exeter and Wheaton. The structure, which is similar to a greenhouse but requires gardeners to grow produce in the ground, was financed through a USDA cost-share grant.

"The department pays a percentage of the costs based on the size of the structure," said Tucker. "I built the full-size hoop house, which is around one-fifth of an acre."

Tucker hosted a University of Missouri Extension workshop to help with the construction of the hoop house. This summer, she is growing peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon and cucumbers in the structure.

"Walt Hasler (another Garden Sass vendor) told me about the hoop houses," said Tucker. "Around a year ago, I signed up for the program. I knew that it would allow me to extend my growing season and also allow me to start my season earlier. The earlier you can have tomatoes the better."

When Garden Sass remains open this fall, Tucker and other vendors will be selling sweet potatoes, winter squash and an assortment of other produce that ripens later in the year.

"USDA is offering the program to see if markets can operate longer during the year," said Tucker. "For the first four years, you are required to grow produce in the hoop house and keep records that are turned in for the study."

Several producers across the country are taking part in smaller studies within the hoop study project. Many of those studies are examining the possibility of growing berries and other produce out of traditional seasons. Tucker said she would like to try her hand at growing berries in her hoop house.

Not only is Tucker excited about extending the growing season for her garden, she is excited to have the opportunity to offer the local community fresh produce during a larger portion of the year. She hopes to see community members continue to visit the market after school starts, which is when business traditionally dwindles.

"It's important for the community to support the farmers' market and appreciate the work and time that goes into providing fresh produce," said Tucker. "So many people don't have the space to grow their own vegetables, but they want to eat healthier. By coming to the market, they can do that and also support their local agriculture community."

Area residents should also remember that farmers' market produce is available for a fraction of the price that many commercial grocers charge, said John Potter, Garden Sass president.

"We've got everything here that you could ask for," said Potter, who maintains a garden in Wheaton. "Right now, we are offering tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, blackberries, bell peppers. Next week, we have a guy coming with watermelon and sweet corn."

Shoppers never know what they will find when they visit the local market. Right now, Carlton Burbridge and family is selling third generation tomatoes at Garden Sass. The family's farm, which is located between Cassville and Shell Knob, has around 7,000 plants this year.

Even though a large yield of Burbridge tomatoes are offered at local farmers' markets each week, community members who want to sample the tomatoes, which were once canned at the Shell Knob Canning Factory owned by Burbridge's grandfather, must arrive early. Shoppers are often waiting for the family when they arrive at 7 a.m., and it doesn't take long for the tomatoes to disappear.

In addition to produce, community members who shop Garden Sass will find arts and crafts pieces on display at the market. Tiffany Coble, of Butterfield, plans to begin offering homemade jewelry at the local venue.

The Coble family also began selling at the Cassville-based farmers' market this summer after Tiffany's husband, Billy, became unemployed.

"We decided we would try farming and see where it took us," said Tiffany.

The Cobles are currently growing squash, zucchini, green beans, garlic and a large assortment of peppers in their one-half acre garden.

"The heat has taken a toll on our cucumbers and okra, but we will have those in the next few weeks also," said Tiffany. "The peppers are loving the heat though."

The Garden Sass Farmers Market, which is held on Mineral Springs Road in the Cassville City Park, is open from 7 to 11 a.m. each Tuesday and Friday. The market closes early if all vendors sell out of produce or goods.

For more information, call Potter at 417-652-3326, stop by the market and talk with one of the vendors or look for Garden Sass on Facebook.

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