Locals eating up organic foods

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Steven Burcham, part of the Garden Sass Farmers Market Association, which runs the farmers market on the square in Cassville, waits for customers at the Saturday Farmers Market. Burcham said organic and farm-fresh foods are growing in popularity. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

On Saturday mornings on the courthouse square in Cassville, people can find all kinds of organic produce, and the popularity of such items is growing, according to the Farmers Market vendors.

Jay Reed and Steven Burcham, part of the Garden Sass Farmers Market Association, which runs the farmers market on the square in Cassville, said over the past decade, there has been more and more demand for locally-grown produce.

"The interest is really in the organic and no-pesticide stuff, because people are getting educated about what chemicals they're eating when they buy things from grocery stores," Reed said. "Organic food has been popular in big cities for about 10-15 years, and now, I'm happy to see it's trickling down to the more rural areas."

Charlie Phaneuf, a first-time vendor at the market, used to work at a hospital before giving up the job to work in the farming industry.

"I saw people coming in sick all the time, and they were always being treated with pharmaceuticals, so I told the people at the hospital I was going to work in real healthcare and give people healthy food, because that's where it begins," he said. "Since we've started, I've noticed where we've put signs on our booth letting people know we don't use pesticides or herbicides, and as soon as they read that, they want what we have."

Phaneuf sells everything from tomatoes to spinach, to more exotic plants like Asian greens and husk cherries.

"We have about 50 different varieties of vegetables," he said. "That's the great thing about the farmers market. You can find stuff that's a little unusual."

Burcham said the most popular items are always tomatoes and berries, but the market offers a lot more.

"A lot of people are interested in new varieties of produce, and it's always something people look at as an oddity, but everyone wants to try what's new," he said.

Reed said people are getting used to now seeing some produce that may not be the traditional color or shape.

"People are warming up to more exotic things like beans that aren't green or tomatoes that aren't red," he said.

Phaneuf said he's even seen lots of growth in the farmers market from when he first participated.

"About three years ago, I went to the farmers market meeting and was surprised how few people turned out," he said. "When it was down by the baseball fields, there were hardly any vendors and it was very quiet. Now, there are lots of vendors and we all talk and share our experiences and knowledge."

Phaneuf said he has heard some customers laud how farmers market produce options top supermarket produce options, and that's music to his ears.

"We try to educate people as well as sell produce, so we hope more and more people will be talking about us," he said.

Burcham said education is playing a huge role in the popularity of organic foods, especially at the local level.

"More people are educating themselves about what they're putting in their bodies, and people are catching on that if you buy something from a store, there's probably at least one chemical involved," he said.

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