Farmers’ Market starts up for season, adds artisans

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Extension offers workshops for teach vendors sampling

With the growing season upon us, the Cassville Farmers' Market has begun setting up its seasonal smorgasbord of fresh produce on the Cassville courthouse square Saturday mornings for residents.

Vendors will be available with a variety of fresh foods and homemade items from 7-11 a.m.

Beginning July 1 and running through September, vendors will again offer an additional opportunity during the week to get the same great fresh items at the auction house on Old Sale Barn Road on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Last year, Tuesday hours were from 2-6 p.m., but hours have been adjusted in the attempt to reach more customers.

"Last year, the afternoon hours didn't work out as well," said Albert Wolfe, market coordinator. "This will give residents a chance to shop in the morning, or they can come on their lunch hour. We will stay until the end of September."

The same delicious items will be available at the traditional market locals love — fresh eggs, homemade breads, honey, fresh fruits and vegetable produce and more, but residents may also see some new vendors and products.

According to Wolfe, the association is now both a farmers' market and an open air market, which can include various artisans.

"It is now also an open air market, so we can have crafters come in," he said. "They have to have a state tax ID number [as required by the city]."

Some vendors will also be selling plants to grow their own vegetables as the season progresses.

The University of Missouri Extension is taking a new interest in farmers' markets thanks to a new grant, with a workshop designed to teach vendors how to market their produce and increase sales, specifically via the sampling of their products.

According to Robert Balek, Extension horticulture specialist, the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program provided multi-year grant funds for the program.

Balek shared that data taken before sampling produce, and after, showed that trying-before-buying can help boost sales. Vendors Balek worked with last year who tried the technique saw increased sales.

"Sampling brings attention to a crop," Balek said. "Sometimes, the farmer will grow a crop that just isn't selling. For instance, we've had that issue with farmers that grow bitter melon. I was skeptical of it, too, until I tasted it."

After he tried the fruit, it wasn't bitter all, as the name implied. Sampling it before buying it sold him.

"In some markets, we'll have customers sample produce, like heirloom tomatoes, so people can try the different types and see which ones they like the best," he said.

At the workshop, vendors will learn how to follow health regulations when giving samples of their products, along with proper food storage and handling methods.

"We know that sampling at the market can increase sales and customer loyalty, but it must be done right to protect the vendors and their customers," Balek said.

Last year, Extension nutrition specialists, nutrition associates and horticulturists gave demonstrations at numerous locations throughout the state.

Wolfe said as a vendor, he would be interested in attending the workshop and learning about the sampling techniques.

For more information on the Cassville Farmers' Market, or becoming a vendor as a producer or artisan, call Wolfe at 417-652-7308. For more information on attending a workshop for vendors to learn how to sample and market produce, call Balek at 417-358-2158.

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