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Culture

Farmers Market of the Ozarks, Where Local People Meet Local Produce

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Local organic produce at the Market. Credit: Farmers Market of the Ozarks

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One organization in the Ozarks is dedicated to providing access to locally produced food, local artisan crafts, and especially to keeping the local dollar-- local.

KSMU’s Shane Franklin went out over the weekend to spend some time with this organization, and has this story.

Smiles, friendly faces, laughing children, neighbors, and community- found at Republic Road and Highway 60 in Springfield, where Farmers Market of the Ozarks has strived to embolden the bonds of community and to empower the local economy.

The Market features over 97 members from a 150-mile radius, with over 40 vendors attending to sell their goods every week, even during the winter season, Saturday mornings from 9-1.

Just last week, heaters were added to the tents, making the whole experience more enjoyable, as promised, says Lane McConnell, the market manager for the Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of producers that actually grow year round, and you can find things like… we have greenhouse tomatoes right now, we have lots of lettuces and greens. We have broccoli. We have carrots, and any type of your winter squash and winter vegetables. Plus we have eggs, and meats, artisan gifts, baked goods, and lots of other products like that too. Don’t expect that just because its wintertime, and it’s cold, that we don’t have fresh produce at the market.”

Ryan Mihalik is a farmer with Millsap Farm, a local organic operation. He says that the Market is a great way to integrate themselves into the local community. Not only do they get the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, but they’re able to communicate with other local farmers and share ideas, which only helps increase the quality of produce at Millsap Farms. 

“Being an organic producer that’s not certified organic, it’s important for the people to know who we are and to trust us as producers, to really get behind what we say we do organically. So that face-to-face interaction really lets them get to know us so they can have confidence in that organic practice.”

One local with confidence in the produce at the Market is Larry Clutter. You can find him and his wife strolling through the heated tents on Saturday mornings, purchasing foods to eat for the week.

“We’re really big on trying to buy local, and we want to buy things from small local businesses, local people, trying to stay away from big chain stores. Here we’re dealing with a person who, they grew it, they butchered it, they sell it, and I like that. I really believe in my heart that we need to bring back small businesses. We need to let people who have little independent companies grow and go, you know?”

The Market is currently looking for additional vendors, so if you’re interested, simply go to the Market on Saturdays and go to the information booth to fill out an application. Or go the Market’s website, LoveYourFarmer.com.  Applications are due by February 23rd.

 “We’re always looking for more fruit vendors. Fruit and berries are always popular at market. Were also looking for more vegetables as far as what we don’t have right now, some vendors that might grow heirloom tomatoes or other heirloom vegetables. Maybe some sweet corn vendors and folks who are wanting to grow pumpkins next year, too,” says McConnell.

In addition to providing fresh produce for the community, the Market also has monthly fundraisers to benefit local charities. Jacob’s House, the Ronald McDonald House, and Harvest on Wheels are a few of the efforts the Market has already been involved in, in addition to rallying aid to send to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

McConnell says the Market takes pride in giving back to the community, especially because of how incredibly generous and supportive the community has been toward the Market and its vendors in their first year.  The Market plans to give back to the community this year, in a big way, by finishing the construction of their new permanent complex.

“The full development of Farmers Park will actually open in November of this year. So, we’re really excited to bring Springfield a permanent farmer’s market pavilion, a place that they can go year round to buy fresh produce and do their local shopping there at the market.”

The Market is a non-profit organization, and one way they fund their operation is through what they call Love Your Farmer Dinners. The first dinner was last October, and the next is January 27th at the Farmers Gastropub in downtown Springfield, says McConnell.

“Mother’s Brewery and the Farmers Gastropub are both sponsors of the event. It will be a five-course meal made with local products from famers and vendors from our market. There will be local beer sampling and paring from Mother’s Brewery. There will be live music, and lots of fun to be had. People who come to the event, and buy a ticket, will not only be able to have local spirits and local food, but they will be able to learn more about our farmers and about the food that sold at the Market, too.”

For links to more information about the Farmers Market of the Ozarks, and to get your ticket for the Love Your Farmer Dinner, go to KSMU.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.