Every Saturday from April-October in a parking lot to the west of Manhattan Town Center, The Downtown Farmers Market of Manhattan brings local food producers and artisans together, attracting students, military and local families.
The producers provide items such as lavender gifts, organic glass cleaner, organic beef, fresh honey and healthy dog biscuits. This group of small businessmen and women say they are in it to benefit the community and their neighbors.
“All of the vendors have a really good relationship and we work together, so if you go to, like, Brooke’s stand, and they’re out of something, for instance, they can tell you who else has it,” Kourtney French, owner of Dolly and Loretta’s Biscuit Bakery said. “Everyone just kind of works together. It’s kind of a little family environment.”
French sells healthy dog biscuits at her booth. “You don’t have to worry about the chemicals, the toxins, the recalls, things like that,” French said. Her biscuits are baked within the week before the market and have a long shelf life, she said.
Down the row from French, Grant Howe and his wife Joanna are the owners of Kneads. They begin their baking at 2 a.m., just hours before the goods are for sale.
“It’s a late night for us,” Grant Howe said. “We’ve done some orders for events or like a special order. The farmers market though, this is where our people come.”
Grant Howe said he believes in the importance of shopping locally.
“It’s the only way to shop,” Howe said. “You get better products, higher quality, no preservatives, it’s fresher and you’re supporting the locals. It’s a lot more healthy, so you can feel good about what you’re eating because you know where it came from.”
Howe said he is proud of the fact that his mother was a part of the first farmers market in Manhattan in 1979.
“It’s a family thing and it’s a social thing because of the repeat customers,” Howe said. “Manhattan is pretty diverse, so you get to meet different folks ranging from military to students from the college and local people as well.”
With vendors selling items such as crafts, fresh cut flowers, jewelry and quilting, the farmers market isn’t just for farmers.
“It’s a part time job,” Elaine Mohr, owner of Southside Gardens, said of her greenhouses. “Pays for the property tax and it provides a lot of good food.”
Mohr has been providing locals with fresh food since the first farmers market in Manhattan.
“I was with the group that started it, about five of us, back in 1979,” Mohr said. “We actually started about a block away, so we really haven’t moved that far from when we started. Downtown has been redeveloped and businesses have disappeared, but we’re still here.”
For many shoppers, it is important to know they are getting healthy food while also helping out locals.
“Every Saturday either myself or my husband comes,” Kathleen Tanona, Manhattan resident, said. “I try to buy as much as I can locally. We have three children so we want to make sure they’re exposed to lot of things and good food is one of them.”
The market supplies food everywhere, not only in the form of healthy vegetables, but also in the form of tasty treats. Mark Wiebe, father of five and a small business owner, listed some of the goods that his wife baked for the market.
“We have cinnamon rolls, raspberry rolls, carmel pecan rolls, several kinds of loaf breads, cookies, pies, and we also bring cheese from my brother, straight from the dairy farm,” Wiebe said. “It’s not just a hobby anymore, it’s bigger than that.”
Wiebe said he enjoys the relationships built through trades and purchases at the market.
“(You get) to learn the people that are raising or baking or making what you’re getting,” Wiebe said. “People come here and spend a lot of time here and visit with their friends. It’s different than grocery stores.”
Shirley York, owner of Needful Things, said she agreed.
“The market is a good place to get the freshest vegetables as they come in season,” York said.
Early Saturday mornings aren’t always for students, but the market is open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. through October, or Wednesday nights at Cico Park from 4-7 p.m. for students to fuel their studies. A winter market is also hosted inside Cico Park’s Pottorf Hall from November-April.