Farming for food

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Prairiewind Farms from Manhattan offers everything from sweet pickle relish to pickled eggs at the local farmers market. This vendor also offered samples to make choosing their products easier and more enticing. (Brook Morris | The Collegian)

If you go to Dillard’s on any Saturday or CiCo Park on a Wednesday evening, you will see what may appear to be a hodgepodge of activity. In actuality, they are ever-growing farmers markets that run in Manhattan April through October.

“The farmers markets are a great way to embrace and share hobbies and the products of those hobbies,” said Lucy Walker, co-owner of The Bathing Bear soap company and vendor at the Downtown Manhattan Farmers Markets. “We, my husband and I, began making our own soaps and lotions and decided we wanted to be able to share those products with other people who looked for the same quality.”

A national survey conducted by the Hartman Group, a research firm specializing in consumer packaged goods and retailing, found that people listed “locally grown or produced” as a top five factor influencing their food shopping. Other factors included being good for the heart, minimal processing and only containing recognizable ingredients.

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Jeff Cannzzo, of Wakefield, MO, buys some fresh vegetables at the farmer's market from Tim Heward of Weiche's Vegetable Garden from Greenleaf, KS. The farmer's market had many fresh foods from local producers giving customers a wide variety to choose from.

Jeff Cannzzo, of Wakefield, Mo., buys some fresh vegetables at the farmers market from Tim Heward of Weiche’s Vegetable Garden from Greenleaf, Kan. The farmers market had many fresh foods from local producers giving customers a wide variety to choose from.

“I appreciate the opportunity to see exactly who you’re buying your food from,” Brianna Stevens, graduate student in interior architecture, said. “I can see them and know I am paying a more worthwhile recipient than a big company.”

According to the Agriculture Department’s National Directory of Farmers Markets, the number of farmers markets in the country has more than quadrupled from about 1,755 since 1994, when USDA first began publishing, to 8,268 as of August 2014.

Though local can hold a different meaning for various people, these increases seem to indicate a growing desire for fresh food from sources they know and can see. In addition to the quality and transparentness, farmers markets provide a different kind of food and goods buying experience.

“The local part,” David Wright, senior marketing manager at the Hartman Group, said in a Harvest Public Media article. “It’s not just a pragmatic or literal definition of local. There’s all these other aspects that have to do with people getting much more interested and involved in how something is made, where it comes from, who made it.”

The Manhattan markets provide space for vendors to sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handmade goods such as soap, clothing, pie in a jar, jewelry and more.

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A large amount of people go to the farmer's market for fresh, locally produced foods. The market offered a large selection from local producers giving customers a wide variety to choose from.

A large amount of people go to the farmers market for fresh, locally produced foods. The market offered a large selection from local producers giving customers a wide variety to choose from.

“When I go to the farmer’s market, it is a chance for me to get away from my normal routine around town,” Stevens said. “The atmosphere encourages me to slow down, take a break and just talk to other people.”

For Glenn Weiche, a Greenleaf, Kansas farmer who travels to Manhattan to sell his food, the markets provide an opportunity to make a living – something he can’t do well in his small town. The markets also allow Weiche to spend valuable time with his family, who help out on market days.

“We sell lettuce, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, beets, spinach and tomatoes in summer,” Weiche said. “Our green beans are probably our best seller. On a decent Saturday, we might pull in $2,000.”

Weiche said their prices don’t usually fluctuate very drastically, but they can be affected by things such as the price of feed and other necessities. These changes can sometimes be reflected in their market selling prices, as they have to adjust to accommodate variations.

For those who haven’t had an opportunity to experience Manhattan’s farmers markets, fear not, for Manhattan hosts winter markets as well. The best way to stay informed about which vendors will be at which locations on certain days, there is a Downtown Manhattan Farmers Market Facebook page that is updated regularly.

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